TIME FOR AN ANIMAL STORY — Deputy County Manager Suzanne Konchan, at left, briefs the County Council on an unforeseen development in its proposal to create a dog beach in the North Peninsula area. To the surprise of county officials, she said, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has expressed concerns about allowing dogs — even leashed ones — to go onto the ocean at or near Bicentennial Park, north of the Ormond Beach city limits, because of large numbers of sea-turtle nests. Sea turtles are protected by federal law, and officials warn that allowing dogs on the beach nearby may threaten the right of locals and visitors to drive on the beach.

The Volusia County Council’s proposal to implement a pilot program of having a dog beach north of Ormond Beach has been delayed, if not derailed.

Just before council members were set to designate a portion of Bicentennial Park for people to walk and frolic with their canine companions, county officials received word of a federal agency’s misgivings about the idea.

“Yesterday, we were contacted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff out of Jacksonville,” Deputy County Manager Suzanne Konchan told the council March 21, noting the agency has “concerns” about encouraging dogs to be in that area. “They did indicate it would require an amendment, … perhaps a major amendment [of the incidental-take permit].”

The incidental-take permit is, in effect, a federal permit to allow driving on the ocean shoreline in areas where the numbers of sea turtles are fewer than in other areas. Sea turtles are protected by the federal agency under the Endangered Species Act. The bill, signed into law by then-President Richard Nixon, expanded protective measures for animal species deemed threatened or on the way to extinction, and it established the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The FWS, Konchan said, considers Bicentennial Park “a high-density turtle-nesting area,“ and thus not advisable for the presence of dogs.

“The presence of dogs on beaches disturbs foraging, loafing and nesting shorebirds and seabirds,” the FWS letter, dated March 20, reads. “While this activity is not specifically addressed in the current ITP/HCP [incidental-take permit/habitat-conservation plan] for Volusia County beach driving, we do not support the expansion of the current beach use by dogs.”

Council members and county administrative staffers are hesitant to do anything that would bring about a federal ban on beach driving. 

“We’re not going to finish this tonight,” County Chair Jeff Brower said. “I want a pilot program.”

Civic and business leaders want to protect the privileges of driving along the ocean, which they deem vital to attracting visitors to the area. Volusia County has a long history of beach driving, going back a century or more.

“If you put beach driving in jeopardy, that concerns me,” Council Member Matt Reinhart said.

Thus, if the FWS does not look favorably on Bicentennial Park as a dog beach, officials will seek another site.

“If Bicentennial puts us at risk, I’m out,” Council Member David Santiago said.

Two alternative places came up for consideration: Andy Romano Beachfront Park in Ormond Beach and a segment of the seashore between Cardinal and Rockefeller drives. Off-beach parking lots are close by, Konchan said, and they have a combined total of 133 parking spaces.

As the debate proceeded, a majority of the council leaned toward the Cardinal/Rockefeller zone.

County Council Vice Chair Danny Robins favored the status quo, which leaves two locations — Lighthouse Park in Ponce Inlet and Smyrna Dunes Park in New Smyrna Beach — for people to spend time at the beach with their leashed children.

“It protects our beach driving,” Robins said. “It it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

In the public hearing on setting aside another dog beach, the council heard arguments for and against allowing dogs on any part of the county’s beaches. 

John Reed opposed letting dogs onto the beaches because of possible pollution from animal waste.

“It’s just not right,” he told the council, adding he wants “a safe, clean beach.”

As she spoke in favor of a dog beach on prior occasions, Nancy Lohman again offered to donate to the county $100,000 toward a pilot program, which may include hiring personnel to police a new park. 

“It’s a very healthy part of our lifestyle, … walking a dog,” she said. “Just try it. If it doesn’t work, we’ll say, ‘Thank you’ for trying it. … Dogs create a lower anxiety level for people, … having healthier living environment.”

Another group, Daytona Dog Beach Inc., has offered to donate plastic bags and bag dispensers so dog owners can clean up after their animals.

The council directed the county administration to contact the FWS and to provide more information on the possible new location between Cardinal and Rockefeller drives as a dog beach. With a 5-2 vote, the County Council also set some tentative rules for a dog beach, notably requiring animals to be licensed, leashed and vaccinated against rabies; requiring dog owners to carry bags and to clean up any animal waste; limiting the time of dog beach to daylight hours; and setting an 18-month timeline for a dog-beach pilot program. Robins and Reinhart opposed going forward with the dog-beach.

The council will take up the dog-beach issue once again when it convenes in regular session April 18. That meeting begins at 4 p.m. in the County Council Chambers of the Thomas C. Kelly County Administration Center, 123 W. Indiana Ave., DeLand. The meeting is open to the public.


  1. I live beach side so I have a really good vantage point to see what is going on. They are not enforcing existing rules. I see dogs all the time in No-Dog areas. And oftentimes, owners who DO NOT CLEAN UP after their pets. It’s disgusting. Hiring personnel to police the new doggie park on the beach?
    Who will absorb that cost once Mrs. Lohman’s $100k runs out? Hello?

  2. Not a good idea, people want to go to beach to relax not to hear dogs barking and poop all over the place

  3. I am curious if any of the county board members ever visit the beach to see the trash left behind by “those responsible people” who come to our beaches. They are slobs who can’t clean up after themselves. How would we ever expect them to clean up after their dogs??? Their dogs will be running off leash, pooping wherever they want. Instead of picking up poop owners will be kicking sand over it. Just wait until our visitors step in it while walking the beach in their bare feet. Or a child playing in the sand digs up dog poop with their shovel. What a great visual when the feces start floating in the ocean where water meets sand. I am a dog owner and my dog does not need to be with me when I go to the beach. The whole idea is unmanageable and not at all good for the environment. The goal should be to protect the beach not destroy it.


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