Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater City Council votes to enact leash law on North Clearwater Beach

Audubon of Florida biologists told the Clearwater council that dogs can disturb nesting shorebirds like this black-necked stilt.


Audubon of Florida biologists told the Clearwater council that dogs can disturb nesting shorebirds like this black-necked stilt.

CLEARWATER — After getting barraged with comments from dog lovers and bird lovers, the Clearwater City Council struck a compromise Thursday night, voting to enact a leash law on North Clearwater Beach in an effort to protect nesting shorebirds from dogs.

Up until now, people have been allowed to take their dogs onto North Clearwater Beach if the dogs are either on a leash or "under voice command." It's one of the few spots along the Pinellas County beaches where canines are permitted. Dogs aren't allowed onto touristy South Clearwater Beach at all.

After a lengthy debate, the council voted unanimously to have city attorneys draw up an ordinance requiring dogs to be leashed when they're out on the sand on North Clearwater Beach, a residential area that runs from Somerset Street up to the northern tip of the island. Council members will likely vote to approve the new law in two to four weeks.

They'll also vote on a rule prohibiting fireworks displays on North Clearwater Beach during shorebird nesting season, which runs from February to August. Groups sometimes get permits for fireworks displays there for weddings, neighborhood celebrations or other events.

This is all about shorebirds.

These issues came up when environmentalists asked Clearwater to forbid dogs and fireworks on the north beach to protect about 30 species of birds that nest there, including snowy plovers, black skimmers, least terns and American oystercatchers.

Biologists with Audubon of Florida told city officials that it's vital that the birds stay in their nests to protect their eggs and chicks, and that the birds are more disturbed by dogs than by humans. Audubon also said leashed dogs have about the same impact as unleashed dogs.

This sparked a flurry of e-mails and phone calls to the city from Clearwater residents who have been passionately arguing both sides of the issue.

A dozen beach residents spoke before the council Thursday night. Although a few wanted stricter controls on dogs, most were against a dog ban.

"I think Clearwater Beach is very unique, and one of the unique things about it is having the dogs," said beach resident Pat Page. "I take my two little dogs out there practically every day."

Clearwater Beach activist Anne Garris argued for a dog ban, or at least a leash law: "Do the birds have another place to nest? And do the dogs have another place to walk? If the birds have no other place to nest, then perhaps we should leave them alone and let them nest. …

"The glamour and glory of Clearwater Beach would certainly be enormously reduced for most people without the birds."

Although Audubon biologists presented the city with reams of scientific research saying dogs are harmful to shorebirds, several beach residents said they believed humans are a bigger threat to nesting areas. They described finding vagrants and partiers sleeping in the dunes.

"There are other things nesting in the dunes besides birds," said Jordan Behar, who said his family got a dog for protection.

The five City Council members, most of whom are dog owners, ended up splitting the difference with a new leash law.

John Doran and Carlen Petersen supported an outright ban. Doran noted that Clearwater includes about 28 square miles, and the ban would affect perhaps an acre or two. Dog owners can take their pets to the beach at Honeymoon Island, Fort De Soto Park or the Courtney Campbell Parkway.

"Ninety-nine percent of the city or more is available for you to walk your dog," he said, "and there's only so much space that we have left for the nesting birds."

George Cretekos and Paul Gibson opposed a ban. Gibson displayed a photograph of his dog watching a Clearwater City Council meeting on television.

Mayor Frank Hibbard, who recently lost two boxer dogs to cancer, thought a leash law was a reasonable compromise. "There is not going to be a perfect solution," the mayor said.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4160.

Negotiations on beach parking site

will continue

CLEARWATER — The City Council discussed several potential sites for a public parking garage on South Clearwater Beach, but council members couldn't come to an agreement Thursday night.

They debated adding levels to the city-owned Pier 60 lot, the Rockaway lot and the waterfront lot next to where the Adam's Mark hotel once stood at the south end of the beach.

In the end, the council decided to continue negotiations with the owners of two other competing pieces of property. Council members disagree on which site is better.

One is the site of the Britt's restaurant along BeachWalk just south of the Hyatt Aqualea Resort that's currently under construction. The other site is a couple of blocks from the beach on Fifth Street between Hamden and Coronado drives.

"I like competition, and I think it makes everyone a bit more motivated," Mayor Frank Hibbard said.

Mike Brassfield,

Times staff writer

Clearwater City Council votes to enact leash law on North Clearwater Beach 05/08/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 8, 2009 9:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Fatal crash closes Morris Bridge Road at Pasco-Hillsborough county line


    TAMPA — Deputies have closed down Morris Bridge Road in both directions at the Pasco County Line as they investigate a fatal crash.

  2. Mandarin Hide celebrates 7 years serving craft cocktails in St. Petersburg

    Bars & Spirits


    With its mascot, a mounted buffalo head named Manny, decked out in streamers and a shiny party hat, the Mandarin Hide celebrated seven years of serving cocktails on Central Avenue last Thursday night.

    Mandarin Hide’s mascot, a buffalo head named Manny, donned streamers and a shiny party hat as the bar celebrated seven years of serving cocktails last week.
  3. Florida education news: Working conditions, school choice, teacher housing and more


    WORK CONDITIONS: Two teachers at a Pinellas County middle school request transfers out, saying the campus has become "hostile and racially charged." The …

    Pinellas Park Middle School
  4. Forecast: Break out those sweaters, Tampa Bay, as cooler weather just a day away


    Tampa Bay residents will finally be able to break out their sweaters and boots this week, but not until enduring yet another humid, rainy day to start the workweek.

    Tampa Bay's 7-day forecast. [WTSP]
  5. Justin Timberlake in Super Bowl halftime show for first time since 'wardrobe malfunction'


    Justin Timberlake has finally been invited back to the Super Bowl halftime show, 14 years after the "wardrobe malfunction" with Janet Jackson caused a national controversy.

    Singer Janet Jackson covers her breast as Justin Timberlake holds part of her costume after her outfit came undone during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston in 2004. The NFL announced Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, that Timberlake will headline the Super Bowl halftime show Feb. 4 in Minnesota, 14 years after the "wardrobe malfunction" with Janet Jackson cause a national controversy. [Associated Press]