So there’s this woman, Angela Anderson, who was all over local news last week because she put a petition on change.org for a clothing-optional 1-mile stretch of Jacksonville Beach. Anderson’s initiative, which had 911 supporters as of last Wednesday — by comparison, the petition last year to rename Nathan B. Forrest High School garnered more than 162,000 — has already been declared DOA by Jax Beach Mayor Charlie Latham, who wants his city to be “family-friendly,” and “family-friendly” means no one wants to see your jiggly bits.
Let’s be honest about this: These things are always better in theory than in practice, because the people you fantasize about baring all are generally not the people who actually do. And while I have no prudish qualms with nudity or nude beaches — even if the average visitor is more pear than hourglass — I have a better idea for this oceanfront property: Let’s give it to the dogs.
There is no beach around here where unleashed dogs are free to run and play and jump in the water and swim and roll around in the sand and glory in the essence of unfettered dogness. Some area beaches allow dogs, sure, but only on-leash and at certain (and inconvenient) times: Atlantic Beach and Jax Beach, for instance, allow leashed dogs before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m.
I understand why this is: Not everybody who likes beaches likes dogs. There is also the threat of an occasional dog bite (and ensuing litigation), as well as the accumulation of the unpleasant deposits canines leave behind, which, if left uncollected, can render a beach, well, less than picturesque, and, more important, wreak havoc on ecosystems.
These are legitimate issues. They are not, however, insurmountable. I’m serious about this — so serious, in fact, that last week I started my own change.org petition (http://chn.ge/1lRB6dH), which you should all go sign right now.
A little context: My family is currently bicoastal. I live and work here. My wife has a job and rents a house in St. Petersburg. Over on St. Pete Beach is one of my favorite spots in the world, Fort De Soto Park, which offers a length of beach north of the pier where humans can bring their dogs and just hang out. No leashes. No asinine time restrictions. The dogs chase and wrestle each other, swim in the breakers, fetch tennis balls, laze about in the sand. There are rules, of course: No aggressive dogs. No dogs in heat. No dogs that don’t respond to voice commands. Pick up after your dog. Don’t leave food lying around. And if you don’t do want your peace disturbed, go to the other side of the pier, where unleashed dogs aren’t permitted.
Weekend after weekend, the beach is packed, and there’s no reason we can’t have that here. Quite frankly, the more dog-friendly a beach and its surrounding area, the more likely I am to visit and spend money. And there are a lot of people with furry children just like me.
So here again is my petition: http://chn.ge/1lRB6dH. This isn’t the most pressing issue of our time, granted, but signing it will only take a minute. And I’ll take wagging tails over sagging boobs any day of the week.