Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Byron: Wildwood Dog Beach to return "bigger and better"

Commissioner Pete Byron says the move from Poplar Avenue will improve Wildwood's Dog Beach

The dismantling and impending relocation of Wildwood's Dog Beach has been the talk of the town this week.

But, in the move, Commissioner Pete Byron sees nothing but opportunity.

As the city's Director of Beach Services, Byron initially proposed the idea and was a driving force behind the implementation of the park at Poplar Avenue in 2014.

"To be honest, when we went with this concept a few years back, I thought it would be something special. But I never envisioned it would take off as greatly and become as popular as it did," he explained.

"However, the location would not have been my first preference because it was kind of tucked in a corner next to the pier (the former Hunt's Pier) and was never properly balanced there. We've been limited in what we can do there, and I guess I've always viewed it as more of a temporary location."

While the precise location of a new, permanent spot has yet to be officially determined, Byron believes the move will have many benefits.

"It's going to be bigger and better, I can promise that," he said. "Having space in a more wide open setting with no obstructions on either side gives us more to work with. More flexibility for expansion, more recreation options. And being more centrally-located will give the park a much higher visibility.

"It will provide a greater experience for our furry friends and their owners."

Byron did acknowledge that other issues spurred the decision to relocate the park, but is focusing on the end goal.

"Is there more to it? Yeah, there may be. But, I look at it this way. [Poplar Avenue] is not where I thought the final destination would be, all along.

"We're not losing the dog park, we're going to make it bigger and better. And that's really a tribute to its popularity what a success it's been," he said, noting Dog Beach's second-place finish in last year's nationwide USA Today Best Dog Beaches poll.

A general area for the relocation has been determined, and the move - including the last piece, the giant red fire hydrant - could happen as early as the end of this week.

Byron noted that Dog Beach will likely reopen in its new spot after Memorial Day Weekend.

"We have so many other things to get up and running, like the beach boxes and walkways," he said, "So on the pecking order of priorities, it's important but probably comes in around third. So we're looking to get that up and running around the second or third week of June."

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