In addition to this, I have also been in direct communication with various individual park directors regarding various other pet related problems including: Dog at large, dogs behaving threateningly towards people, pooping with failure to scoop, dogs harassing wildife, etc...
Anyway, here is the letter. Note that a few details have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent!
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
RE: Dogs in State Park Campgrounds
January 10, 2011
Dear Mr. Director,
I am writing to inform you of a growing problem in your state park campgrounds. First, let me say how much I enjoy the Florida state park system. Our State Park system is truly something for all Florida residents to be proud of! It is one of the primary reasons I decided to relocate myself and my business to Florida from New Jersey 6 years ago. Your staff has always been polite and helpful.
I am a volunteer activity leader for the XYZ Chapter of the Trail Association and I organize and lead group hikes in the Northeastern Florida area. I lead a group hike of 46 new hikers at Little Talbot Island this past Saturday, January 7th. Everyone enjoyed the hike and you have many new State Park enthusiasts! Additionally, this activity brought hundreds of dollars into the park coffers and increased park attendance significantly. I have also lead group hikes at O’Leno SP, Washington Oaks Gardens SP, Torreya SP, Suwanee River SP, and many other locations. I also assist is work hikes maintaining the Florida Trail and I participated in a work hike at Gold Head Branch SP this past fall.
One of our charters is to promote outdoor activities in the state of Florida: Hiking, Biking, Bird Watching, Camping, etc… for a variety of reasons not the least being that this is a very challenging fiscal environment and we are facing a “use it or lose it” scenario in most of our natural areas.
I was also a registered camper at Little Talbot that weekend. That is a SPECTACULAR campground… truly a world class destination!
So, imagine my dismay when I returned to my campsite this past Saturday to find the campground swamped in barking dog noise. A camper in site #29 had left their dog alone in their pop-up unit and the animal was screeching and yelping constantly and in a most offensive manner. The noise was loud enough to be clearly heard throughout the campground. I notified park rangers who were able to locate the owner and demand that he return and quiet the dog. However, it took 2.5 hours for the individual to return and do so, therefore nearly all the campers were subject to loud, offensive and useless noise pollution for almost the entire afternoon! Clearly, other campers were agitated… walking over to the campsite looking for the owner, etc… The peace was destroyed in a most profound way.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time I have encountered an issue similar to the one described above. I stayed in St. George Island SP over Christmas holiday and the situation was a bit similar. The campground was full of dogs, several of them over-stimulated by the surroundings and unable to refrain from barking at anyone in the vicinity. In that situation, no one dog or dog owner was a true nuisance, but loud barking could be heard throughout the campground more often than not due to the sheer number of dogs present. One of your rangers referred to it as “dog city”.
Mr. Director, this is a serious problem that needs to be solved. Again, your rangers at Little Talbot were pro-active in locating the owner and ultimately resolving the problem but I am concerned that the problem erupted in the first place. I understand that you want to accommodate as many folks as possible, but each of these troublemakers is going to drive away many, possibly dozens, of others. If this problem is allowed to continue, I believe it would be a disaster for the State Park System. Most people find loud barking offensive and the parks NEED to be a place people want to go. I was crushed this past Saturday when I realized that much of the good I had sacrificed for that morning was offset in a negative way by an irresponsible dog owner.
Further, the State Constitution clearly states “SECTION 7. Natural resources and scenic beauty.—
(a) It shall be the policy of the state to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty. Adequate provision shall be made by law for the abatement of air and water pollution and of excessive and unnecessary noise and for the conservation and protection of natural resources”
Clearly, none of this noise pollution was useful or necessary. These irresponsible dog owners are destroying the natural environment as well as violating other camper’s right to peaceful use of the space they have paid for. Do all campers need a loud alarm to go off whenever someone walks down a park road or leaves their pet alone in their camping unit? Further, the World Health Organization has determined that repetitive loud noises, such as barking dog noises, are a full blown threat to human health. A barking dog can generate noise in excess of 105 decibels, loud enough to damage hearing!
With that said, I insist that the park service do more to preserve the peace within the State Park system. Bringing any animal into a state park is a guest privilege, not a right. I recommend any or all of the following:
- Sternly remind all dog owners of their responsibilities. If their dog is driven into a loud frenzy by the mere sight of another person, or if it’s uncontrollable for any reason, it should not be welcome in the park. Have phone numbers and addresses of local kennels available.
- Limit the number of dogs per campsite.
- Empower park rangers to write citations for those disturbing the peace. Irresponsible dog owners impose a cost on others and they should be held accountable for those costs. These citations should be in excess of $100.00
- Take affirmative action. Require that all campground hosts and rangers patrol and work to ameliorate all nuisances immediately. Please do not wait for a complaint from another guest.
- The status of dogs in the park system to be put on probation pending a review. If the situation does not improve remarkably in the next 12 months, dogs to be banned completely from the park system.
Mr. Director, thank you for taking the time to read my letter. The Florida State Park System is a true, world-class, gem and I want it to stay that way!
John Q Public