Walking the Dog: Managing Our Public Conservation Areas for Multiple Uses and Constituencies

CLC staff hands a dog walker a flier about an upcoming meeting
CLC staffer hands a Greenport visitor a flyer

By Peter R. Paden
For Hudson–Catskill Newspapers

This past month local news outlets carried a story about an appearance before the Greenport Town Board by a neighbor of the Greenport Public Conservation Area. The neighbor voiced his concern about people who bring dogs to the site, which is managed by the Columbia Land Conservancy for the Open Space Institute, and turn them loose, unleashed, causing aggravation to those who live nearby. The articles accurately reported that, in fact, the CLC does not invite people to let their dogs run free. Posted rules clearly require that dogs be kept on a leash at all times and, moreover, that dog walkers must clean up after their pets.

Black lab on a leash
Leash Law Flier
Fliers describing the leash law are prominently posted at the entrances of the Greenport Conservation Area

The articles also reported that from CLC’s perspective, the use of our conservation areas by dog owners poses a significant management challenge, and our policies are under active review. We are hopeful that we’ll be able to work with the people who use our conservation areas, dog walkers and non-dog walkers alike, to develop a much higher level of compliance with our rules for taking along canine companions. If this effort fails, we will have to consider banning dogs altogether. No one at CLC wants to do that.

CLC’s Public Conservation Areas

CLC manages almost 2,000 acres of beautiful, open lands that are available free of charge 365 days a year for public recreation and enjoyment. Situated on ten sites throughout the county, these properties provide access to a broad sampling of the exceptionally varied landscapes and ecosystems that make the natural world in Columbia County so rich in conservation value: open grassy fields; lakes, streams, wetlands and estuaries; deciduous and conifer forests; places that are relatively flat and those full of topography. They are managed for the conservation of the wildlife and ecosystems found there. They are also managed so that people can visit and experience the extraordinary natural world of Columbia County. They are used by people of all ages for walking, jogging, birding, fishing, canoeing, snowshoeing and the like, and they serve as outdoor classrooms for CLC’s educator and others.

Dogs or No Dogs?

Every organization that provides open spaces or park land for public enjoyment faces the question whether to permit people to bring along their dogs. Many conservation organizations simply do not allow dogs. CLC has chosen a different course. We want our conservation areas to be available to as broad a constituency as possible. We understand that dog owners love their pets and enjoy being with them outdoors. We therefore permit people to bring their dogs to our PCAs, but we’ve established two rules: the dogs have to be on a leash, and owners must clean up after them. Since we operate what are in all other respects carry-out-what-you-carry-in facilities, you have to put the bag in your car and dispose of it somewhere else.

So What’s the Problem?

As the Register-Star noted in an editorial on the subject a few days ago, these rules are wellgrounded in reason, are simple and easy to follow. But while there are many dog owners who follow the rules, many do not. An awful lot of people apparently value the experience of walking with their dog off leash; and way too many fail to clean up after them. Let’s review the risks and adverse consequences.

Unleashed dogs present a danger to others. Obviously, an unleashed dog can harm people, intentionally or not. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. It really shouldn’t.

From the dog owner’s perspective, letting your dog run off leash exposes your pet to physical and emotional danger.  I have spoken to more than one person who reports cases where a dog was seriously injured, usually by another dog, but sometimes also by, say, a porcupine, while running off leash. Some dogs, even gentle loving pets, have instinctive aggressive reactions to other dogs. Nasty encounters can flare up in a flash. Dog fights are no joke. Even if there is no physical injury, dogs that are attacked can experience serious and permanent personality changes, becoming fearful or hostile.

Unleashed dogs are also a major annoyance, and in more than a few cases, a source of stress and anxiety to others. I think it’s hard for dog lovers to fully appreciate how uncomfortable their well loved pets can make a lot of people. Many, many people are afraid of dogs. The sight of an unleashed dog bounding toward them on a sparsely populated trail in the woods creates a lot of fear and can spoil what was supposed to be a tranquil walk in the woods. Similarly, even people who love dogs that are visiting the conservation area with a young child or jogging on the trails are likely to be distressed when approached by an unleashed pet.

Unleashed dogs are a threat to wildlife. There are numerous studies documenting the damage to wildlife caused by dogs running loose in natural areas. Being dogs, they love to chase small animals and birds, sometimes maiming or killing them; sometimes just giving them a good scare. It is not consistent with our conservation goals to give the canine world free range to indulge themselves on these properties.

Then there is the issue of excrement. It requires little discussion. No one walking at one of these areas wants to step in it. But it happens – to hikers, to school children on our programs, to our staff while working at these areas. Guiding your dog off trail into the woods or high grass to do their business, or throwing the waste there, is not a satisfactory solution. People, staff and visitors, can and do go off trail themselves. Our educator has had the experience of brushing back foliage to call something to children’s attention and coming up with a handful of dog waste.

What’s the Solution?

It is my hope that, with effective outreach, we’ll be able to develop a broad consensus on the need for a high level of compliance with our simple rules. At 5:30 P.M. on Tuesday August 23, 2011, we will host a meeting at Trinity United Methodist Church, 555 Joslen Boulevard, to discuss these issues. All are invited – people who love to walk their dogs at our PCAs and those who use the areas without their pet. We look forward to a full discussion, and will welcome suggestions as to how we can effectively ensure that the rules are followed.

I also encourage you to share your thoughts by making a comment on this article. I encourage everyone who has an interest in this issue to participate in this discussion. We’ll be paying close attention as we review our policies and practices regarding canine companions at our conservation area properties.

Peter Paden is Executive Director of the Columbia Land Conservancy. His column appears in the Register-Star on the first Friday of every month.

59 Responses to Walking the Dog: Managing Our Public Conservation Areas for Multiple Uses and Constituencies

  1. Pingback: Letter to the Editor – Dog Walkers Welcome | Columbia Land Conservancy

  2. Pingback: Letter to Greenport Town Board | Columbia Land Conservancy

  3. Michael Chameides says:

    We’ve posted a follow-up to our 8/23 dog forum in Greenport.

    • Mark Ciavardoni says:

      At Borden Pond on Thanksgiving day a dog running loose attacked and then left a fatally injured squirrel to die on the trail. My wife witnessed the attack. We contacted North Country Wild Care’s Emergency Hotline and brought the squirrel home to get it to treatment but it died from it’s wounds before we could get it treatment.

      • Michael Chameides says:

        Mark, thanks for the update. I’m sorry to hear you and your wife had such a stressful experience due to an unleashed dog.

  4. Mark Ciavardoni says:

    The sad truth is that about 35% to 50% of dog owners are irresponsible in some way regarding their dogs. As a dog lover who had an American Pit Bull Terrier for 13 years, hiking or walking with her was often a stressful undertaking as about 70% of the time we would encounter irresponsible owners letting their dogs run loose, the dogs were often aggressive, and I often needed to use my hiking stick to fend them off. Also, even a “friendly” dog can be terrifying to a young child when it charges toward a child.
    Sadly, a rule requiring dogs to be leashed, and owners to pick up after the dogs, is unenforceable due to lack of enforcement resources, and the high percentage of irresponsible owners guarantees repeated violations and danger to those using the land. THE CONSERVANCY SHOULD ADOPT A RULE PROHIBITING DOGS ON ALL CONSERVANCY AND CONSERVANCY MANAGED LANDS. No offense to the dogs, but it is the only effective way to deal with irresponsible dog owners and should reduce the potential legal liability to the conservancy.

  5. Elaine says:

    I was hesitant to attend the meeting Tuesday because I thought it would become difficult for dog walkers to discuss their concerns without becoming too emotional and unruly. Far from it!
    The meeting was super. We were welcomed at the door and the atmosphere was friendly and productive. Peter Paden and his capable staff did a terrific job of organizing guest speakers who shared their viewpoints. We learned about the perspectives of dog trainers, dog walkers, caretakers, Scenic Hudson reps. , Ron Perez from Columbia – Greene Humane Society and people who enjoy being at the Greenport park managed by CLC. All in all, it was an informative meeting and I left confident that the consequences would be weighed in making the right decisions that would protect all that enjoy walking there. The people attending were cooperative and friendly and I was glad I went. I will look forward to seeing them again.

  6. Lara K says:

    The majority of the comments here seem to be about the Greenport Conservation area, where I have never been, but these policies are going to affect all CLC sites. We are active users of the High Falls site, where 9/10 visitors on weekdays are dog walkers, though we rarely encounter anyone. It’s a great resource for the residents of Philmont and the businesses there. We would like to encourage CLC to develop policies like those of the Trustees of the Reservations and the NYC Parks Department that do provide for dogs off-leash – not all of the time and not everywhere. It would be a shame if my dog can get better excercise in Brooklyn than in Columbia County.

    • Michael Chameides says:

      Lara, I’m glad you appreciate the High Falls Conservation Area. It’s a wonderful place! Although, I’m hardly ever there on weekdays. We are open to developing some off-leash locations, but definitely not anytime soon. For now, all of our public conservation areas require dogs to be on leash. I definitely understand your desire to have your dog run around off-leash, however dog exercise is not a priority for CLC. The presence off-leash dogs makes it harder for many people to use our sites and it also has negative effects on wildlife.

    • Kelsie Krein says:

      Lara I agree that there should be someplace in the area that should allow well behaved dogs off leash, like a dog park. But I don’t think places like High Falls are the best place for it. I bring my American Bulldog to High Falls all the time and we love it there. But there are to many distractions and people without dogs around. Some one could get hurt or a dog could run away. I think the best thing to do is keep your dog on leash at these places. It also makes it easier to clean up after them. But I do think there should be a fenced in area for dogs and there owners somewhere in Columbia county. There is no where around here like that which is frustrating.

  7. Shari says:

    After the meeting, I took my dog for a walk at Greenport CLC. On leash, which is fine and I always pick up after my dog. While walking, I was thinking about the meeting. I feel like, I wish I knew that this was an issue. It seems that it wasn’t brought up until the point of being a threat “No leash or No dogs?” . I believe that most people would like to compromise so that ALL could enjoy the CLC dog owners (RESPONSIBLE ONES), single walkers, and small children and their parents (again, responsible parents). I was surprised to hear about how few people their are to maintain the CLC and wonder why there was never discussion brought up about getting more volunteers for the CLC? I am sure that many people, including myself would like to make this work.

    • Michael Chameides says:

      Shari, thanks for coming to the meeting. We definitely need volunteers. You can sign up to volunteer on our volunteer page. I think you are right: almost everyone has the same general goal – to have our conservation area be accessible to as many people as possible and to maintain the conservation goals as much as possible. I’m sorry if you feel threatened by the language of the signs, but the language does represent the organization’s thinking. We are going to follow up the meeting with stronger efforts to build the organization’s relationship with users of our public conservation areas.

  8. Hilary Hillman says:

    Peter, Michael and CLC Team:

    Great meeting tonight. Dog owners are by and large a wonderful group of socially conscious people. I have no doubt that the meeting went far in helping to foster a path to work together and keep dogs in the “Welcome Visitor” status at the Greenport Conservation area.

    A point I wish I had made tonight is: I do not know any dog owner that would take his/her dog to a cat loving friend’s home and immediately set the dog off leash to do whatever the dog found delightful to do, namely chase the cats in their home habitat. The Greenport Conservation area is home habitat to many species, mammals, birds, reptiles and is a watershed for micro-habitats. I believe that if people thought about why the CLC rule is in place or, moreover, thought, “whose HOME is this that I am taking my dog into?, they would understand that leashing the canine visitors is appropriate.

    The issue should not devolve to dog-people v. non-dog-people, or people v. dogs, or neighbors v. dog owners, or even potential CLC legal problems. The Greenport Conservation Area is appropriately named, it is a conservation area. A conservation area where it is about being a visitor in nature and savoring what you can observe, hear, smell about the views, the environment, nature and yourself while in this very special place to which, at this juncture, you may bring your dog.

    A dog park is something different, also a great experience; I hope we can get one of those also. We should not expect CLC to provide us with one; providing dog play areas is probably no where in the CLC mission. It is by default that people would look to CLC to provide an open-space for dogs to play merely because such a place is sorely missing in our region, and because CLC has the closest approximation of such an amenity. We should talk with our town and city officials about creating a great place for dogs to play off leash.

    Best to all,

    • Michael Chameides says:

      Thanks for coming to the meeting! Regarding your point about the dog park: we work with many organizations developing new public trails in Columbia County. If there was a group developing their own off-leash dog trails, we would be interested in providing support. Although, I am not making a blanket promise.

  9. Noah Fischel says:

    I would like to post a comment as someone who regularly walks at the land conservancy every week. I walk there alone or with friends and do not have a dog. I would like to go on record as saying I am against banning dogs from the park all together. As someone using this place constantly, I would say there are more dog owners enjoying the conservancy than those without dogs so that’s your constituency, if there was a vote, the dog owners would win. That said, why not have weekly hours which are posted for all to see during which time the dogs can run free, unleashed? Please work with this situation as it involves the health of our community here in Hudson and this is our only nearby accessible place to enjoy nature. Thank you.

  10. Timothy O'Connor says:

    The Greenport Conservation Area’s unleashed dog problems won’t end with this affair, not if the CLC encourages unleashed dogs in its land use plans for the area’s contiguous properties in Hudson.

    According to the Register Star (8/10/11), the CLC’s “Hudson North Bay Recreation and Natural Area – Concept Master Plan” would “transform the area [of North Bay] into a wetland and forest habitat and bird sanctuary, as well as a public educational and recreational area for city residents within walking distance.”

    Also outlined in this plan are “an urban park, trails, grassland bird habitat, tidal and forested wetlands, upland forests … a pedestrian path from Hudson to Greenport, and an expansion of a 1.6-mile path connecting the Greenport Conservation Area to Harrier Hill Park.”

    The North Bay landfill site is already ruined for pedestrians – and older leashed dogs – by unleashed dogs and their law-breaking owners. (The Hudson police seem only to serve tickets for unleashed dogs upon a caller’s insistence, so people who are bothered ought to keep insisting.)

    What makes the CLC believe that the same people who are incapable of respecting the rules in Greenport won’t wander beyond the “urban park” in Hudson, and then out along the trails, grassland bird habitats, tidal and forested wetlands and upland forests of the adjoining Greenport Conservation Area?

    If the CLC plans to be consistent between the contiguous properties it intends to manage and/or plan, how can their spokesmen have already given “a nod” to locating a dog park “somewhere in the North Bay”? (See 6/1/11 Register Star story, “Group discusses park for ‘Man’s Best Friend.’”)

    That’s going to be a problem for you, guaranteed. That it might also be a problem for the wildlife is evidently not a paramount concern among certain of the CLC’s donors, duck hunters excepted.

    • Michael Chameides says:

      Timothy, it sounds like you are upset with people who don’t keep their dog on a leash and that you are skeptical that they will ever follow the rules.

      We are not actively working to establish a dog park in the North Bay nor does our Concept Plan for the North Bay recommend the establishment of a dog park. Although, we recognize that there is a need for a dog park and that it would likely get significant use. If a dog park was located in the North Bay, the managers of the dog park would need to address how unleashed dogs would be contained within dog park area.

      • Timothy O'Connor says:

        Thank you for your response Michael.

        “Skeptical” is too mild a word for my take on the childish behavior of many citizens hereabouts (dogs being dogs).

        I paint landscapes out of doors, or I used to. Both the Greenport Conservation Area and the North Bay meadows are off bounds for me now, as I cannot go a single painting session without being molested by unleashed dogs. This means dogs jumping up on my easel, sticking their snouts in my gear, and pawing my wet oil palette.

        In every single instance – including being bitten while painting in Hudson – the dog owners blamed me, EVERY TIME. That’s what we’re dealing with, and that’s why I’m upset.

        It was because your representative acknowledged that the CLC had “given the nod” to a dog park at North Bay that I thought I’d share my intense skepticism about the kinds of people I’ve dealt with while out painting.

        Of course you are correct that it would be the dog park managers who’d have to police their own rules, but in the event that you’re supplying nods a little too eagerly, don’t be surprised if the soft-headedness of these future dog park “managers” leads to even more problems for the CLC.

        • Michael Chameides says:

          Thanks for adding these personal experiences, I understand where you are coming from better. I’m sorry you haven’t been able to get through a painting session. I’m also sorry that you have had so many negative experiences that you no longer have faith or trust that the situation will change. I hope we can prove you wrong, but can’t say with certainty. . .

  11. Hilary Hillman says:

    I am a dog owner who leashes and cleans up after my dogs when we visit the CLC conservation area. I am completely in favor of the leash rule.

    When I first discovered the Greenport Conservation Area I would occasionally take my dogs and young goddaughter to walk there. She loved going with us, it was sweet, she called it “Our Conversation Area”. Sadly, it soon became very frightening to the the then young girl not because of wild animals but, for fear of a “domestic” dog off-leash coming around a corner.

    In the past my dogs (on leash) and I were attacked on three different occasion by off-leash dogs at the the Greenport Conservation area; the first time sent by dog to the vet and me to the doctor, my dog with multiple bits, me with one bite. The second time I was the one knocked over and into the bushes by a big dog who lunged at me. The third time, two large dogs ran from a distance at me, my friend and my dogs, we did not give chase but, we moved swiftly to the car, we got both of my dogs in the car and one of the attacker dogs was half way into the drivers seat of the car and my friend and I had to yank the dog out. As we drove away the attacking dogs kept jumping on the car barking wildly, paying no mind to the so called “voice control” of the owner.

    I treasure the Greenport Conservation Area; my dogs love it also. The dogs know it is a place that they are to be on leash, it is that simple. When we are there, we are guests in a beautiful setting provide by a fabulous organization for which I am very grateful. CLC is a gracious host to the whole community, the organization imposes minimal rules, the rules should be obeyed; it is that simple.

    Best to all,

    • Michael Chameides says:

      Hilary, these experiences with off-leash dogs sound awful. I could understand how that would scare people off, but you and your dogs are still coming. You must really love it! I hope the best on your future visits and that our renewed emphasis on the leash rule will ensure that this doesn’t happen again.

    • Timothy O'Connor says:

      Good comment Hilary – here, here.

  12. Nina Sklansky says:

    Leash your dogs, or go elsewhere. It’s the rule, and it makes sense to enforce it. That way EVERYONE can enjoy the GCA.

  13. Elaine says:

    I think that we are all very fortunate to be allowed to visit this retreat and commune with nature and reenergize from the hectic pressures of life. We do not pay the taxes and we don’t even have to pay admission. We simply have to follow the rules and this seems to be the problem.
    Dogs are wonderful but this is not fair to ask walkers, parents with kids, artists, birders,tourists, senior citizens and people with leashed dogs to risk their safety and the safety of the leashed dogs with roaming, bounding dogs that can be unpredictable no matter how well trained. Personally,I think this can not be resolved totally .
    The efforts of CLC have been ignored and a ban may have to be put in place to avoid potental lawsuits. I think Michael and Mr. Paden are being more than fair to try to negotiate with people who are insensitive to others.
    My suggestion would be to consider a schedule of alternate leashed Dog days and then Dog free days

  14. Peter keller says:

    I believe a majority of visitors to your site are dog owners with their dogs. A wonderful solution was suggested above where certain trails could be dog friendly. The pat owner must have the dog under voice control and carry leash.It goes without saying they need to clean up after their dogs.
    This way you are accessing the needs of the highest number of people who visit your site.

    I very rarely see other humans and dogs when I am there walking my dog. Do you really want to see very few users visit your properties.

    I for one will no longer support conservation needs if the decision is made to ban dogs and if I feel the conservation organizations have a negative agenda regarding dog and dog owners.

    • Michael Chameides says:

      Thanks for commenting Peter. We are not considering scenarios that involves having dogs off-leash. Given the varied users of our sites and conservation priority, we have decided that the leash rule is best way to meet our goals. We hope you and others will continue to want to use the site. We also hope we don’t have to ban dogs in order to prevent off-leash dogs.

  15. anonymous dog owner says:

    People who put their dog’s ‘self-expression’ first usually favor their own self-expression over any group. In the 1970s, I was part of many a collective effort that crashed on the rocks of ‘just do it.’

    It will be the rare ‘self-expressionist’ who’d take any interest in your meeting.

    Give it six months, then ban all of the dogs. It’s the only way that I’ll return to that property which has been ruined for birdwatching.

    Where is the landowner, the Open Space Institute in any of this?

    • Michael Chameides says:

      I hope you are wrong and that people will respect our rules and reasoning for keeping dogs on leashes at our properties. We’ll see. . .

  16. Jock Spivy says:

    Good for CLC. Having been bitten by a German shepherd, I know how important it is for dogs to be controlled. Quiet enjoyment of CLC property should indeed include NOT having to worry about being attacked by loose dogs.

    • Michael Chameides says:

      Jock, I’m sorry you were bit. (Especially if it was at a CLC public conservation area.)

      • Jock Spivy says:

        No, the biting incident happened in New Jersey as it happened. Thank you for your kind concern though. I appreciate it.

        Good luck with enforcing your very sensible rules.

        By the way, isn’t it a rule in Greenport that dogs must be on a leash, or otherwise controlled?

  17. Lee Jamison says:

    I enjoy snowshoeing at various CLC properties during the winter. However, the Greenport CLC Area is particularly gross due to large amounts of unscooped dog poop festooning the nice white snowy trails. GAACKKK!!!
    Would enforcing a leash rule help loving, free-range, dog owners be more aware and responsible for “pick-up and pack-out”? If so, I’m for it!
    I don’t think cute “flingers” are the answer–it only rearranges the fecal scenery. Maybe bright colored baggie dispensers labeled “Pick up and pack out, PLEASE!” with the “No Fouling” dog icon like they use in the UK.

    • Michael Chameides says:

      Lee, you’re right. We are looking into systems that would improve this situation. And I’ll have to check out this “No Fouling” icon.

  18. Guest says:

    It appears that some people don’t realize that the Greenport Conservation Area is private property.  The owners allow the public use and enjoyment of the site, provided that we follow a few rules—including all dogs must be leashed.  It’s the same as a friend or neighbor inviting you and your dog to their property, and asking you to keep your dog on-leash.  Would you unleash your dog the moment you arrived?  Of course not, because you would likely be asked to leave and wouldn’t be invited back.  The difference here is that those dog-owners who believe that the rules don’t, or shouldn’t, apply to them are going to ruin it for us dog-owners that do follow the rules.  If you want your dog to run free, do what I do and take them to a place where it’s allowed.

    • debee says:

      I agree with guest, I walk at many of the sites with my little dog Rudy (who is on his leased at all times!!!) and there is nothing more frighting than have a big unleased dog approaching us with no owner in site, I don’t know what that dog will do to my little dog or to me, the owner who now comes in to view yell out its ok he/she friendly, well I don’t know that and my little dog don’t know that. He is now scared and frighten, and wants to now leave the walk which we were just enjoying, there are parks that allow dogs to run “FREE” go to them if you feel that you can’t obey the rules, rules are put in place so ALL can enjoy the area!!!! I hope I will be allow to walk with my little dog Rudy come this fall for the foliage is beautiful to view and watch all the little squirrels hide the nuts. My vote is just follow the rules!!!

    • Michael Chameides says:

      The Register-Star agrees with you and quotes this comment in their recent editorial Must Love Dogs

  19. Farmer chick says:

    Hurray for enforcing the regulations. What you are proposing is fair, and I appreciate your efforts to protect wildlife. It’s nice to know I can take a hike at the Conservation Area and not have to worry about large off-leash dogs running toward me – it’s happened and it’s upset me in the past. Dogs on a leash are safer for everyone.

    • Michael Chameides says:

      I’m sorry you had a negative experience in the past. I hope this campaign will prevent that from happening again in the future.

  20. Julie M. Finch says:

    When I visit my daughter and her dog and walk with them in the Greenport Conservation Area, it is very rare to see anyone else. When we do it is usually one other person. It is standard practise for us when another person, with or without a dog approaches, to call her very obedient dog back verbally, and put a leash on him, so the other person with or without a dog can pass by.

    I think one person’s single complaint has hit a nerve with the management. And I think people who do not own dogs are over-reacting. I agree with the anonymous comment above about Rules being enforced makes everyone feel that the problem is controlled, and has been solved. I like the suggestion re: policy in the State of Maine.

    Of course all dog owners should bring their own plastic bags, and clean up after their dogs. My daughter’s dog runs ahead , on the path and waits for us. He does not rush off willy nilly into the forest to scare things. He can do that in his own back yard, when the deer approach the vegetable garden. The difference is territorial. He is not guarding an anyonmous large public and neutral park area.

    Thank you,

  21. Rainer Judd says:

    For some eight years I have been walking at Greenport Conservation Area (and other CLC sites) with my Hudson found dog. It is by far his favorite activity of the day, to run on the trail, unleashed. He far prefers it to the confines of a small dog park. I have considered that “walking the trail” was one of the benefits of living in a rural area. To hear of this campaign to somehow impose a leashing rule on dog owners and their dogs in a natural area where days of walking go by when we hardly see anyone on the trail is unfortunate, sad, even absurd, narrow-minded, and indeed, “draconian” as one Comment called it. I appreciate the comments of Susan Antos, Belle, and Anonymous. For CLC to not even consider a solution of “dog hours” or a “dog designated trail” or even the guidelines as suggested by Anonymous: “The signs should read, ‘Dogs must remain with their owners at all times and not be allowed to approach other people or pets off leash. No dogs should be allowed to chase wildlife. If you are scared of dogs just ignore them and calmly walk past or tell the owner so they can move their pet off the trail to let you pass. Ask owners before petting their dog.’ ”

    I imagine that dog owners range high in the percentage of CLC site visitors. They are likely the most regular visitors as the loyalty by dog owners to walk their dogs seems to run higher than a non- dog owners to walk in nature. For CLC to aggressively threaten these dog owners with (signage, wording) with the idea that they will not be allowed to utilize these sites leads me to believe that CLC does need this constituency for funding directly or through visitor log counts. If this is the case it is fortunate that CLC funding is so secure that this is not an issue.

    In the eight years of walking I only recall one time that wildlife was threatened by the my dog or his friends. The creature was a mole. Other than that, bunnies, squirrels, and chipmunks have successfully evaded my dog. He will never catch one.

    • Michael Chameides says:

      Rainer, I’m sorry you feel that the signs are ‘aggressive’. The language on the signs was escalated in an effort to gain more compliance with our leash rule. Prior, we have had signs about dogs and they were often ignored. Do you have suggestions on how can more effectively communicate the importance of the leash rule? It should be noted that CLC is seriously considering banning dogs if there is not a higher rate of compliance with the leash rule. (Since we started this campaign, we have noticed good results.)

      The presence of a dog – even if it doesn’t kill anything – reduces wildlife population.
      The scent of dogs scares off wildlife, and studies show that banning dogs significantly increases wildlife. We don’t want to ban dogs, but wildlife conservation is one of the priorities of our public conservation areas. The intention with the leash rule is to enable people to bring their dogs and also support wildlife by reducing the amount that dogs go off-trail. As mentioned below, we believe the leash rule will be more effective than the wording Anonymous suggested. Almost all conservation organizations around the country have a leash rule. We are doing our best to balance the varied needs and goals of our multi-use conservation areas. I believe that CLC provides a great service to dog owners – even with a leash rule – providing miles of trails throughout the county, open year-round free-of-charge.

      • Rainer Judd says:

        Dear Michael, Thank you for taking the time to reply to my comment. To be clear, I do not intend on walking at CLC sites with a leashed dog. The entire point of walking with my dog is that he can be off leash. I feel strongly about this and will head to the Catskills if I must, or befriend land owners who have trails before I take my dog on an hour long hike on a leash. Considering that you and I have, in the past, joined together to defend the rights of people to freely play soccer at the River’s Park I would think you would be able to understand the importance of running free for a being’s mind, body, and spirit. If there is not one trail in all of Columbia County managed by CLC wherein the wildlife could handle the scents and presence of free-running dog then that would be very unfortunate for dog owners throughout the county.
        Sorry that I am not interested in making recommendations on how you might ensure your leash law is obliged.
        Another policy in Maine is to allow dogs on the beaches only seasonally when the Piping Plover is not nesting. In addition, sometimes certain areas may be closed off if there is a wildlife need.

        • Michael Chameides says:

          Rainer, it’s CLC policy that you keep your dog on a leash. If you want to have your dog off leash, you should find an alternate location.

  22. Susan Antos says:

    Many parks in Maine have the following rule and I wonder if you might consider it – they allow off leash walking of dogs in certain parks and conservation areas so long as the dog is under voice command and the owner carries a leash at all times. That way, particularly in places where a you can walk long distances without seeing other people, you can quickly call your dog as soon as you hear or see others and put her on a leash. Perhaps you could pilot this in one or two preserves and see how it works. Of course, carrying out one’s own dogs waste is a critical component of any good policy. Perhaps we could have a doggie subcommittee and have dog lovers that “adopt” a preserve, and make sure that the kiosk is staffed with doggie bags. I’d be happy to work on that committee. I’ll be in Maine on the 23rd, but would be happy volunteer time to work on this issue upon my return.

    Resources re Maine dog policies: Dr. Linn Caroleo, Maine Unleashed, 101 Off-Leash Walks in Maine (Mid Coast Edition); Dog Parks, Beaches and Trails in Maine, http://www.downeastdogguides.com

    • Michael Chameides says:

      We have a leash rule for safety reasons as well as wildlife preservation. The Maine rule you suggest doesn’t address our concern for wildlife conservation. Thank you for volunteering to work on this issue with us! And thanks for your thoughtful comment.

    • anonymous says:

      Do you really believe that the culture of the Hudson River Valley is comparable to Maine’s? I mean really, do try and have some local (rather than idealized) awareness.

      One commenter on this thread actually argues that she is in a “rural” area, and thus should be allowed to behave in a rustic manner with her dog.

      Maine and rural New York are very far away, both in miles and in society.

      comment edited for appropriateness by CLC moderator

  23. Tricia Pierro says:

    P.S. Dog owners please be more respectful of others-leash and pick up after your dog.

  24. Tricia Pierro says:

    I truly hope CLC doesn’t have to ban dogs from the Greenport Conservation Area. I am the proud mom of two yellow labs and we all enjoy walking at the Greenport Conservation Area. It is very disappointing that one of the few dog friendly places in the area might ban dogs. I think dogs at the Conservation Area should be leashed so everyone can enjoy the open space. Also, I totally understand the frustration with people that do not clean up after their dogs.

    • Michael Chameides says:

      Our hope is that people who visit our public conservation areas, particularly dog walkers, will remind others to follow the leash rule. If people are complying, we won’t ban dogs.

  25. Belle says:

    I agree with anonymous (July 30 @ 2:18). I have been taking walks at the Greenport Conservation Area on a near-daily basis for the past three years. I do not own a dog. My overall experience has been of encountering responsible dog owners with their well-supervised dogs, whether their pets are or aren’t on a leash. I enjoy seeing a happy unleashed dog, in fact, and I enjoy seeing the relaxed freedom the dog walker out for a companionable stroll also derives from to likewise not being tethered. I believe that to instill/endeavor to enforce/police a leash law is too draconian. I do not believe the system was “broke,” and I do not believe that requiring leashing would necessarily prevent some of the everyday commonsense risks cited above. Rather, I believe, that a vocal minority’s insistence now on leashing may be a small but reflective example in our culture, of a profound difference in world views. Some people believe there should be more “rules” and heavy enforcement of them, particularly, it seems, in the area of regulating simple human freedoms & pleasures. I believe that there may be a kind of puritanical subtext – those unleashed dog owners & their dogs are having too much fun! There is in our culture a kind of War Against Nature, and against natural impulses. The Greenport Conservation Area represents to me an oasis from the “War Against Nature,” in every respect. It soothes my soul after the soulkilled feeling I get after making my way past the pavedover ruination of Route 9 in Greenport. I enjoy the freedom of walking around in open air. I enjoy seeing people and their pets enjoying their small, simple, clean, healthy pleasures of walking freely outside. I believe that rather than imposing more “rules” to be “enforced” it would be more useful, as anonymous above suggests, to clearly state expectations of what it is to be a responsible dog owner visiting the site – encouraging stewardship in that sense, and personal responsibility. A dog there MUST be closely supervised at all times – but I believe it should be up to the discretion of each responsible dog owner (and I have not met, in three years there, an irresponsible one yet) whether in his or her judgment, a leash at all times is necessary.

    I believe that a far more important park management issue, than whether or not a dog happens to be on a leash, is that of too many dog owners not picking up after their dogs. I appreciated a past cheerful, witty initiative on the part of a park user to try to address the issue a couple of years ago, via the introduction of the orange tin spades, hung at the entrance gates, dubbed – as amusing & informative signage revealed – “poopflingers.” I believe those poopflingers were well-used by many dog walkers in the park, and need simply now to be replaced, along with fresh signage. I greatly appreciated the goodnatured humor that went into trying to solve that problem. I offer this as a contrast, again. There wasn’t the imposition of a “law” to be “enforced,” rather it was a commonsense solution to an annoying problem. So again, by all means encourage – spell out – expectations as to what it means to responsibly supervise your dog at the park, but not in a “gotcha” way as to, quite arbitrarily really, requiring a leash.

    Thank you.

    • Michael Chameides says:

      Belle, I am glad you enjoy your visits to the Greenport Conservation Area. Our rules are designed to maximize the benefits based on CLC’s goals for the conservation area. There is strong evidence that dogs have detrimental effects on the wildlife habitats – the leash rule is intended to limit these effects in addition to the safety concerns.
      I think many people have a similar experience as you. Walking in a natural area can be quite soothing after the barrage of stresses of daily life. It’s our hope that dog owners can have this experience while following the rule that dogs are on a leash. Moreover, we hope that compliance with the rule will lead to more people having a positive experience. People afraid of dogs won’t be as stressed about the approaching dogs; and the wildlife will be even more noticeable and vibrant.

  26. Regina Rose says:

    I have been “guilty” of allowing my dogs the freedom of running full tilt ahead of me and gleefully burning up all that energy that gets stored up on my litle 1/3 of an acre corner of the world. And it has given me pure joy to watch them revel in this freedom. But I do understand all the points you make – and there seem to be more people out there than there were five years ago, when my “kids” were two years old. So, I promise, I will not be bringing them to Ooms Pond any more. There is no way I could walk my 100 pound dogs there, especially when they consider it one of their favorite places to run and exlpore, and just be dogs. Bailey and Dickens and I thank you for the past five years or so of many beautiful walks – winter, spring, summer, and fall. Nothing lasts forever.

    • Michael Chameides says:

      Regina, thanks for following our leash rule. We’d love to have you and your dogs visit our public conservation areas. However, if you feel you can’t keep your dogs on a leash, it would be better not to bring them.

  27. annonymous says:

    I agree that its important for folks to not be bothered by other people or other peoples pets while enjoying their walks. People with dogs should be considerate and make sure that their dog is not visiting others or others dogs uninvited. People with dogs should also recognize that different people and different individual dogs have different tolerances for interacting with your pet. On the other side of the issue are people unaccustomed to dogs and how to interact (or in some cases not interact) with them. My dog has given a few folks “a scare” while on leash just because of the way he looks. Others bend over him and talk to him in a high pitched voice which is a huge invitation for him to lick you and rub up against you for a pet. If you don’t want to get dog slobber or mud on your nice jacket don’t bend down, talk in a high-pitched voice, and get my dog all excited just walk on by and we’ll do the same. I don’t think that fear of a perceived but generally unfounded threat should be the basis of rules. Leashes don’t prevent dogs from interacting with other dogs or children that run up to them. Aggressive dogs shouldn’t be taken out in public areas and the owners of the dog need to be the ones making these decisions based on their knowledge of how their dog interacts and not the outspoken minority that is afraid of dogs. If my dog is well-trained, friendly to people, children, and pets, and has a 100% recall, and no one else is at the conservation area but me, having him off leash isn’t a threat to the dog, wildlife, or other people or property. That call to let him off leash under those circumstances should be made by me, the dog owner, who has the responsibility of keeping him, others, and wildlife safe and not by other people who don’t know my dog and may not understand dogs as well as I do. Good dog handling on leash or off is about directing your dogs energy in a beneficial manner not merely tethering him and expecting that because hes on a leash he’s under control or assuming that if he is off leash he is not under control. This thinking is oversimplified. If EVERYONE was more respectful and a little more understanding of each other this wouldn’t even be an issue. Having leash laws and abiding them would be entirely unnecessary if everyone, with or without dog, was considerate of each other and recognized individual differences of both the human and canine variety. The signs should read, “Dogs must remain with their owners at all times and not be allowed to approach other people or pets off leash. No dogs should be allowed to chase wildlife. If you are scared of dogs just ignore them and calmly walk past or tell the owner so they can move their pet off the trail to let you pass. Ask owners before petting their dog.”

    • Michael Chameides says:

      Thanks for commenting. We agree with many of the points your bring up. Dog owners need to be responsible for their dog(s) and visitors need to be responsible for how they interact with other people’s dogs.

      In the abstract, an off-leash dog that always stays next to his/her owner and 100% obeys all verbal commands is as safe as an on-leash dog (and safer than an out-of-control leashed dog). However, when it comes to creating a policy for all of our visitors, we believe the leash rule will be more effective than a plea for people to control their dogs. I am not questioning you and your dog, but I think many people exaggerate their capacity to control their dogs. If we implemented the rule you suggest, many people who don’t have 100% verbal control over their dog would keep their dog off leash with the mistaken belief that their dog is obedient. We believe that the specificity of the leash rule is the best policy to protect people, dogs, and wildlife.

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