Monday, June 12, 2017

Complete Dog Beach relocation hoped for by 4th of July; new location IS now active

Update Highlights...

*  Weather has delayed move of Dog Beach to new location
*  Though unfinished, park between Glenwood & Maple IS now active
*  Dogs on leashes are allowed in the ocean at this location
*  Completion of "bigger, better" park hoped for by 4th of July
*  City of Wildwood working closely with Morey Organization
*  "This isn't going to cost the taxpayers money."

Commissioner Pete Byron has heard the concerns of the public. And if he could have it his way, Wildwood's relocated Dog Beach would already be up and running.

"We're working very hard on it, but [the new park] isn't going to be fully ready as soon as I'd like. And Mother Nature has had a lot to do with it," he explained. "This has been a wicked spring and its put us behind with a lot of other things we need to do to get the beach ready for summer.

"We've lost a few weeks due to weather and have had to prioritize things, like getting the walkways ready, and the beach boxes, which make the city a lot of money."

Wildwood dismantled the three-year-old Dog Beach at Poplar Avenue in early May, with the intention of moving it to a more expansive, city-owned location of sand between Glenwood and Maple Avenues, only two blocks south.

Byron noted that the complete move is near the top of the city's list of priorities, and is hopeful that it will be ready by the Fourth of July.

"I'd say we're about three or four weeks away, unless the weather interferes again. So, fingers crossed."

Despite the lack of present set-up, Byron confirmed that the new location IS technically open.

"The public can now use the new site," he said. "It is now legal to utilize the area between Glenwood and Maple. Even though there isn't anything there but a small gazebo, it is the designated Dog Beach and it is active.

"We will have a sign put up soon at the old site at Poplar that will redirect people to the new site. Lifeguards have begun putting up cones, until we get everything set up, new fencing and all. But people can take their dogs to the beach now, even before its all completed.

"As long as dogs are leashed, they can come down and enjoy the ocean."

Dog Beach's signature, two-story fire hydrant still stands at Poplar Avenue, just south of the old Hunt's Pier. It will be making the move to the new location, which will also feature a wider fenced-in area for dogs to run freely, play accessories, benches and more.

"It's going to be fantastic," Byron continued. "Bigger and better, I can promise that. It will be well worth the wait. There's just so much more we can do [at the new location].

"As you know, we came in second in the nation in the (USA Today's) most popular dog park poll last year. Listen, I'm not a second place guy. I want to be first. I want this to be nothing less than the best dog beach park in the country, or anywhere else."

According to Byron, the city has been working very closely with the Morey Organization, which was instrumental in establishing Dog Beach at Poplar Avenue back in 2014.

"I'm working with them, more specifically with Jack [Morey], who has a lot of the same visions as I do with regard to the town," he said. "Some quirky visions, albeit, but still positive visions. The Morey Organization has been a tremendous asset and supporter of Dog Beach."

When it comes to the success of and public enthusiasm for Dog Beach, Byron is thrilled, yet still "pleasantly taken aback."

"First of all, I still can't believe the way this thing took off when we started it three years ago," he said. "But it just kept getting more and more popular, and I think it quickly outgrew the Poplar beach area.

"When we temporarily closed it down to move it, I couldn't believe the response. The feedback has been amazing. We've gotten phone calls and emails. People saying 'I've planned my vacation around Poplar Avenue to bring my dog and now you're moving it. I don't want to come to Wildwood if I can't bring my dog!'

"So, closing it down, which was a necessity, provided an indication for just how popular it is and how much people care about it. Locals and vacationers alike."

Byron again cited the USA Today poll and noted how Dog Beach's increased popularity has led to a great deal of positive press and exposure not just for Wildwoods' massive beach, but for the island on the whole.

"There's a ripple effect, and it's wonderful," he said. "People don't realize what this dog park has done. I mean, it's put us on the map, it's become a major attraction. It's taken day-trippers and turned them into multi-day trippers. The publicity we've gotten from it has been amazing."

At this stage, the city is reaching out for donations and help with resources to complete the moving and installation process.

"Sometimes you don't have to have donations in the form of money," he said. "For instance, we've reached out to fence people. So things like that can be of substantial savings to the city. This isn't going to cost the taxpayers money. There isn't any influence whatsoever on our budget.

"This will be a major boost to the motel businesses. We're seeing restaurants and establishments becoming pet friendly. They're jumping on the bandwagon. So whatever little bit of money it's going to cost, we're going to get it back a thousandfold in goodwill."

Byron had one more bold prediction:

"When this Dog Beach is fully completed in its new location, it's going to become an even bigger attraction. As popular as the Wildwoods Sign at Rio Grande [Avenue] is, with all the people you see taking photos and gathering there, I think this is going to be even bigger."

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