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Sep 9, 2008 8:36 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Protest over dog's feces lands resident in hot water

Sep 9, 2008 8:36 AM

To hear Matthew Norklun tell it, he is just a beach lover who was trying to inspire East Hampton Village to cut down on the amount of dog poop left on its ocean beaches by irresponsible dog owners. In a way, Mr. Norklun was even lending a hand by cleaning up after some dog owners who couldn’t be bothered to do it themselves.

But village officials were not grateful for the way Mr. Norklun chose to inspire them. He ended up with a ticket for littering and he lost his job as a village lifeguard.

The beach lover and lifeguard left several plastic bags used for picking up after dogs, known as “Mutt Mitts,” filled with feces on the steps of Village Hall. They were labeled with the name of the village beach they came from.

“The clean up after your dog law is a joke, nobody complies with it,” he said this week. “People feel they can get away with it. It’s just as bad during the winter, three are fewer dogs but more people violating the law because nobody is watching.”

“He is entitled to his concerns with respect to dog feces ... but that doesn’t justify his behavior,” village administrator Larry Cantwell said this week. “If you’re going to pick up dog feces on the beach, you should dispose of it properly. There are plenty of avenues to raise awareness of this problem short of delivering dog feces to Village Hall.”

Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. was incensed at Mr. Norklun. He refused to let the 20-year village resident speak at a recent Village Board meeting and he ordered Mr. Norklun fired from his part-time lifeguard job.

“I am very displeased with the way he conducted himself,” Mayor Rickenbach said on Monday. “Quite frankly, that kind of behavior is not in keeping with the caliber of person we want employed in the village. The girls who work at Village Hall were very bothered by it.”

After the bags of poop had been left in front of Village Hall after business hours every day for more than a week, police started watching for the 
delivery man. On September 3, a police officer saw Mr. Norklun park his car on Main Street in front of Village Hall and toss a plastic bag with the words “Georgica Beach” written on it onto the front doorstep. The officer issued Mr. Norklun a ticket for littering.

“I don’t think what I did was littering,” Mr. Norklun said of his clandestine delivery this week. “I was picking up evidence of a crime and delivering it to the village government. If the mayor is disgusted by it, he should imagine how people who go to the beach and see that a hundred times every day feel—that’s what I wanted to tell him at the meeting.”

Mr. Norklun, 52, does not admit to having been the one who delivered all the bags to Village Hall but he said he has been haranguing village officials about the problem for more than a year. He has met with village police about the problem of people not picking up after dogs, which is considered littering, and that he was told the department does not have enough manpower to monitor the beaches at all times, he said.

Dogs are allowed on all village beaches between before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m. during the summer and all day between October and June. Each village beach has a Mutt Mitt dispenser at its entrance and a sign telling dog owners to pick up after their dogs.

But Mr. Norklun said that human nature dictates that, if people aren’t facing the threat of a fine for not obeying the rules, inevitably, some will choose to ignore them. He said that few dog owners are conscientious about cleaning up after their dogs if someone is not watching them.

Mayor Rickenbach said that he thinks most people do pick up after their dogs but the few that don’t leave behind glaring reminders of their presence.

“Unfortunately, the mindset of some people is that they can’t be bothered—that’s human behavior,” the mayor said. “Most people want the beach to be enjoyed by everyone and are responsible about this. But those few who aren’t ruin it.”

Mr. Norklun said he does not feel that just enforcing the cleanup law is enough. Dogs should be banned from the East End’s beaches as they are in other seaside states, such as Florida and California. He said he has heard of similar complaints from residents of Southampton Town, Connecticut and Cape Cod, where dogs are allowed on beaches.

He noted that dogs urinating on the beach does not leave behind a visible reminder but is nonetheless unsanitary in an environment where people, including young children, are walking barefoot or lying on the sand.
“Nobody in their right mind would ever go barefoot in a dog park so why do we treat the beaches like a dog park?” Mr. Norklun said. “Every kid is taught to stay away from yellow snow. How do you tell where the yellow sand is?

“We have the most beautiful beaches in the world,” he continued, “and you’re greeted with a sign” on the Mutt Mitt dispenser “that is a picture of a dog taking a crap in a human hand.”

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It is truly disgusting how people are just permitted to pollute our beaches with their dog feces and urine. Dogs should not be allowed on the beaches at all especially since owners are not responsible and respectful enough to clean after them.
This is definitely a problem and the Mayor needs to wake up and smell the coffee. Severely, fine these violators who are ruining the beaches for kids, and adults. Let their fines pay for nasty clean up job which is undoubtly needed. The village needs ...more
By carol adrianne (2), east hampton on Sep 10, 08 8:17 PM