The announced changes to the Fisherman's Cove Conservation Area, known to many users as "Dog Beach," have left many unhappy, and now a protest is planned.

At issue is the Monmouth County Park System's decision to prohibit dogs from the beach between 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day -- prime beachgoing hours.

Fisherman's Cove in Manasquan was one of few places pet owners could bring their pups to enjoy some time together on the sand -- and because it's a county park, it's free.

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The only other pet-friendly beaches in our area are the Bayshore Waterfront Park in Port Monmouth, which is also part of the county park system, and 8th Ave. in Asbury Park, which charges access fees.

There are two petitions circulating to allow the dogs on the beach all day. One is hosted at change.org, and another at standunited.org. The petition organizers have planned a peaceful protest for this Sunday, May 24th from 12:30-4 p.m. at Fisherman's Cove Conservation Area.

Mark Balyshev

I spoke to Karen Livingstone, spokesperson for the Monmouth County Park System, who said they are aware that some people are very upset with the changes, but it's partially a safety issue, and also due to feedback from park users.

"We have many other visitors [without pets] to the park as well who wish to enjoy it...and it's just become a little difficult."

As one of few totally free beaches in our area, it's no wonder this has become a coveted spot.

"The thing is, we want to be able to have this facility open to all of our residents; it's not for one population," Livingstone said. "There are other activities that people want to take advantage of. [For example,] it's hard to just, fish, without the dogs getting in the line...and there are people who just want to sit and have a picnic on the beach."

Livingstone emphasizes that dogs are still welcome on the beach from 6-10 a.m., and 4-8:30 p.m., and in the upland area throughout the day. She adds that owners can also bring their pets to Bayshore Waterfront Park as an alternative.

Seeing how Port Monmouth is a bit of a hike from Manasquan, it seems that a better alternative would be for some of the local municipal beaches to allow dogs during the day, the way Asbury Park does.

I'm not a pet owner, but it does seem like there should be more options for people who want to bring their dogs to the beach.

As for the county park, I liken this to when a community pool kicks out all the kids for a while so the adults can swim in peace. The kids hate it...but the adults should have a chance to use the free pool to do some laps, right?