Canova Beach Park in Indian Harbour Beach – the only public beach in Brevard County where dogs are allowed to run on the sand and charge into the waves – has become a magnet for dog owners who live on the barrier island, mainland Brevard and nearby counties since it opened in 2012.
Due to its popularity, the county is now seeking a location for a second dog-friendly beach park, focusing on the area just south of Patrick Air Force Base, near the end of the Pineda Causeway.
“[Canova Beach] is a hot spot for sure,” said Hector Lopez, Parks and Recreation Department interim director. “It doesn’t matter what time of day, you could be waiting for a parking spot for a little bit. It’s definitely a destination for everybody.
“Once they hear that this is a legitimate park for the dogs to have access to the actual beach it does become a destination, even for neighboring counties. We have noticed more cars from Osceola and Orange and Seminole counties. I don’t think they originally thought that that was going to be the case.
“Parking is a challenge because of the number of visits, which increases in the spring and summer. It’s well used from dusk to dawn seven days a week,” Lopez said.
The 9.1-acre park with three dune crossovers is unstaffed, but visitors are usually good about following posted regulations, Lopez said.
“You have good days and better days, but I would say for the most part the average dog owner does follow the rules. They police themselves. If they see another dog owner who is not being respectful, you’ll see them going to those owners and say, ‘Be respectful. This is the only dog beach in Brevard County. You don’t want to abuse it or destroy it.’”
All dogs in the park must be on a leash no longer than six feet and have proof of current rabies vaccination and license. Handlers can have a maximum of two dogs and must stop their dogs from digging and immediately fill any holes that are dug.
Of course, handlers are responsible for picking up and properly disposing of dog waste and they are required to remove their dog from the beach if the dog becomes aggressive.
With an estimated 70,000 dog-owning households in Brevard, and only one small dog beach, Renee Hurley of Cocoa Beach created a petition in 2016 to allow dogs on all Space Coast beaches before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m.
“I knew there was support for the idea when I got 5,000 signatures in just a matter of days,” Hurley said.
Hurley’s petition has not been officially presented to the county commission, but her efforts may have prodded county officials to begin looking for places to create additional dog-friendly beach parks.
One area that has been studied is south of Patrick Air Force Base, Lopez said.
“We look for locations that may be a little rockier, where the tourists or general beach users would not want to come in. We try to look for locations that would benefit residents of Brevard County and I think we wanted something close to Pineda to handle the central part of the county.”
Canova Beach, located at the end of the Eau Gallie Causeway, “was for the people living in the south,” Lopez said, adding that plans for another dog-friendly beach have not firmed up yet.
“There has been interest in adding other locations, but we have not gone any further than researching the land and asking the municipalities if there were sites they had considered,” he said.