2011-06-30 / News

Should dogs be permitted on island beaches?

By Margo Sullivan

Questions about dogs on the beach sparked debate at the June 22 meeting of the Jamestown Shores Association, and discussion was stirred after it was learned that Island Animal offered to donate a container with doggy mitts to clean up after the animals.

“The only problem is, we do have an ordinance,” said Nancy Ventrone, co-president of the association. “Dogs are prohibited on the beach. It could be a Catch-22. I’m not sure if we want to make this an issue.”

JSA member Deb Howard said the gift was on hold until the members had a chance to consider the issues and decide if they wanted to go forward. She said that she had mentioned the possibility to Town Administrator Bruce Keiser.

Although the beach itself is offi cially off limits to dogs, Howard said, she still thought the container might be a good idea. Many people who stay off the beach still walk their dogs up and down Seaside Drive, she said. She added that a container at the beach entrance could remind dog walkers headed to both destinations to pick up.

But several members wondered if the container would encourage people to run their dogs at the beach.

Charlotte Zarlengo said the traffic was not limited to residents. Visitors from out of town take their dogs to Head’s Beach. She also suspects a problem with professional pet services carting dogs to the beach. Zarlengo said she has seen the Unleashed company van parked at the beach, although she did not see any dogs. Zarlengo also reminded the members about the health issue.

“Don’t forget, dogs urinate on the beach. It’s just as bad as feces. All the kids are playing in that grassed area.”

Richard Ventrone doubted the container and the doggy bags would make any difference in people’s behavior.

“There are picker-uppers and non-picker-uppers,” he said.

In other business, the Jamestown Shores Association will send a letter to the Town Council about an unfair situation related to fire hydrants, Nancy Ventrone said.

There are no hydrants in Jamestown Shores, but now residents must pay something for hydrants in other parts of town, Ventrone said, in addition to paying high fire insurance rates to protect their own property.

“We were made promises we would not have to be involved in water for the town,” she said. She added that some of the $610,000 (the 2.8 percent budget increase that was passed at the Financial Town Meeting) would in fact go to maintain hydrants.

Nancy Ventrone suggested the letter to ask town councilors to help Jamestown Shores and offset the broken promise over the fire hydrants. Mary Jo Diem, the association vice president, suggested one possibility: She said the association should ask the Town Council to resume its $50,000 annual contributions to protect water resources.

Zarlengo wanted to know what happened to the money the town has previously contributed to protect water resources. At one point, over $300,000 sat in the account, she said, but Jim Turenne, the guest speaker and a member of the Water Resources Protection Committee, said that account had been emptied.

Ventrone also questioned why the hydrants, which used to rent for $75,000, now cost $200,000.

In other business, a solution for the unbuildable tax-sale lots near Head’s Beach could be in the works, Carol Nelson-Lee said.

Nelson-Lee said if the Town Council agrees, the land will go under the protection of the Conanicut Island Land Trust. Under the arrangement, the town will own the lots but will give the land trust a conservation easement. The Jamestown Shores Association will monitor the lots for the land trust, she said, making sure no one encroaches on the property or dumps litter there.

Nelson-Lee expects the Town Council to act over the next 30 days.

In other business, Nancy Ventrone announced the new officers, pending any last-minute candidates. She expected to continue as co-president with Ann Gagnon. Jo Diem is the new vice president, Tim Yentsch continues as treasurer and Claudette Cotter stays on as secretary.

Turenne, also a Jamestown Shores resident, spoke about soils in Jamestown and addressed issues that impact homeowners. All of the Jamestown Shores homes rely on wells and although many also have septic systems, some homeowners still maintain cesspools, so runoff can be a problem.

Turenne showed a photograph of a rock outcropping and explained how water travels through the fractures. Jamestown’s water supply comes from bedrock aquifers, he said, and water is recharged but sometimes trapped in hardpan or dense till. That can be a problem for contamination, he said, and suggested homeowners test the wells periodically.

Turenne, a certified U.S. Department of Agriculture soil scientist, said dirt is a crucial natural resource and nations have risen and fallen depending on how they have treated their soil. Haiti is the prime example of a nation that was virtually destroyed because the soil was “decimated,” he said.

He explained that the glacial drumlin is the island’s dominant geological structure. The drumlins, scoured out by the glaciers, are essentially hills, and he showed contour maps describing them. All the drumlins run north to south, he said.

The last glacier, the Wisconsinian, covered New England about 20,000 years ago and deposited a type of soil called “glacial till,” he said. The till includes all sizes of material from clay to boulders. Imagine the ice is one to two miles in thickness and grinds down everything in its path, he said.

Jamestown has three distinct geological sections. The oldest, the southeast section including Fort Wetherill, is dominated by Newport Neck granite.

Beavertail, which belongs to the Conanicut Group, is 500 million years old. The primary rock there is phyllite.

The youngest part of the island, the Rhode Island Formation, is 300 million years old and part of the carboniferous Narragansett Basin, where shale, sandstone and anthracite are the characteristic rocks.

Turenne said the soil with yellow tinges contains iron, while the black soil comes from carbon. Most of the Jamestown soil has low pH and needs to be fertilized because high pH is good for gardening, he said.

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