Summer resident Paula Della Penna, walking her Australian shepherd mix, Oreo, is urging the city to build a dog park.

By Donald Wittkowski

Dogs are not allowed on the beaches during summer. They’re also barred from taking a summer stroll on the oceanfront Promenade. There are signs scattered throughout town reminding their owners to pick up dog waste because it is a health threat.

All these things lead to one inescapable conclusion: It’s a ruff-ruff world for dogs in Sea Isle City.

Without any place of their own to roam, about the only way they’re able to get some exercise is to take a walk tethered to a leash – unless, of course, their owners sneak them on the beach for a quick romp before someone calls the cops.

But now, Sea Isle officials are looking to give dogs their own playground, of sorts.

Knowing that many families choose their vacation destination based on its pet-friendly reputation, Sea Isle is considering a new dog park as a way to keep both the canines and their owners happy.

City Business Administrator George Savastano told members of City Council during their meeting Tuesday that no locations for a dog park have been found yet, but Sea Isle hopes to come up with something “pretty special.”

“It’s something that would be a nice amenity,” Savastano said.

A prominently located sign next to the gazebo on the Promenade makes it clear that dogs are prohibited on the Promenade and beaches.

During the June 26 Council meeting, Mayor Leonard Desiderio is expected to propose a $4 million ordinance to finance a series of capital improvements throughout the city. The funding measure will include $25,000 to help plan a dog park, Savastano said.

Savastano noted that this isn’t the first time that the mayor has asked Council to include money in the capital plan to search for a dog park site.

On a narrow barrier island where virtually any property is at a premium, the challenge will be to find enough open space to accommodate the project, he pointed out.

“We don’t have a lot of open space,” Savastano told Council.

Under the city’s laws, dogs are not allowed on the beaches or Promenade from May 1 to Sept. 30. They must be licensed, leashed and curbed at all times, according to the city’s website. All dog feces must be removed by the owners.

Council President Mary Tighe said she supports the idea of having a dog park, but she would not want to have it on the beach because of the possibility that pooch poop would be near where children play in the sand.

Tighe said there has been some talk among city officials about possibly locating a dog park in the north end of town, near Fifth Street.

A sign at the bay end of 63rd Street, next to the Dealy Field athletic complex, reminds owners to clean up after their dogs.

Tighe also said she would like to see the city place waste bags and dispensers throughout town to help dog owners clean up after their pets.

“We have a lot of dogs in town,” she said. “If you go out on Saturday or Sunday morning at 7 o’clock, people are walking dogs on every block.”

During the public portion of the Council meeting, one summer resident, Paula Della Penna, suggested that perhaps the city could set aside a two-block area of the beach as a designated area for dogs.

“Now, there’s really nowhere for the dogs to go,” Della Penna said in an interview after the meeting. “It’s a little difficult. It’s a little challenging.”

Della Penna owns an 8-year-old Australian shepherd mix named Oreo. She formerly took Oreo for jaunts on the beach during the early morning hours and the evening, before and after the sunbathers were there. Knowing that dogs are banned on the beach during the summer, she now keeps Oreo on a leash for walks around town.

Della Penna, whose full-time residence is in New Hope, Pa., has been vacationing in Sea Isle ever since she was a child and owns a summer place at 63rd Street and Central Avenue. She believes that a dog park would only add to Sea Isle’s appeal as a vacation resort.

“I think it’s really nice that the city is aware of this and addressing it. It would be another reason to love Sea Isle,” she said.

Paula Della Penna, playing a trick with Oreo, thinks a dog park would make Sea Isle a more inviting vacation destination.