SUDBURY – As of May 1, 2021, dog walkers visiting the trails of the Desert Natural Area will be required to leash their dogs at all times, announced the Sudbury Valley Trustees.
This new policy is designed both to protect the wildlife and wetlands in the conservation area and to ensure an enjoyable experience for all visitors.
Straddling the Sudbury-Marlborough line, the Desert Natural Area comprises several properties, including the City of Marlborough’s Desert Conservation Land, the Town of Sudbury’s Hop Brook Conservation Land, and Sudbury Valley Trustees’ Memorial Forest.
These landowners and the owners of neighboring conservation lands are enacting the dog-leashing policy to protect the rare birds and other wildlife that live and nest in the Desert Natural Area, as well as to protect important plants and the high-quality cold-water streams that flow through these lands. The landowners also want to ensure all hikers have safe and pleasant visits to their trails.
“We encourage people and their dogs to enjoy our trails, but we need to implement the balance between conservation and recreation,” said Laura Mattei, Director of Stewardship at Sudbury Valley Trustees (SVT). “Keeping dogs on a leash will help to protect the many species of
wildlife that live here.”
Mattei continued, “Dogs that run off the trail can have many adverse effects on a variety of wildlife, especially the low-nesting birds and turtles that lay eggs in the Desert Natural Area. One example is the eastern whip-poor-will, a state-listed rare bird species that lays its eggs
directly on the ground. Free-running dogs can disturb these birds, damage their nests, harm their fledglings, and directly or indirectly lead to their deaths.”
Matt Morris, Land Stewardship Coordinator at Sudbury Valley Trustees, explained that the policy also helps to protect the sensitive wetlands at the Desert Natural Area. “Many of us are dog owners, and we know how much dogs enjoy the water. But heavy dog traffic has caused significant erosion of the stream banks in the Desert Natural Area.”
Lori Capone, Sudbury’s Conservation Coordinator, concurred.
“Hop Brook Conservation Land, which contains steep sandy slopes and a myriad of vernal pools, is highly susceptible to the damage caused by off-leash dogs,” said Capone. “When dogs run up and down the slopes to explore the water resources, they destroy vegetation, destabilize the slopes, and degrade the habitat. Erosion degrades water quality and the habitat needed by fish and invertebrates.
Added Mattei, “Due to the damage caused by dogs, we invested significant resources in restoring and reinforcing these stream banks. We continue to see new damage. It’s our responsibility to protect both the quality of the wetlands and the wildlife that live in them. One of the surest ways to do that is to require that dogs be leashed so they cannot run into the water.”
The land managers also want all hikers to feel comfortable on the trails at the Desert Natural Area, a popular destination for many area residents. Having dogs on leash will lessen the chance for unpleasant or, occasionally, harmful interactions with people and with other dogs,
according to Priscilla Ryder, Conservation Officer for the City of Marlborough.
“Keeping dogs on leashes protects wildlife, but it also helps ALL visitors enjoy the property,” explained Ryder. “Some people are uncomfortable around dogs, and most people do not want a dog to run up to them or jump on them, no matter how friendly the dog may be. And of course, unleashed dogs can be a threat to other dogs on the trail. The leash policy will enable everyone to enjoy the woods.”
To encourage visitors to comply with the leashing policy, the landowners are seeking volunteer “Bark Rangers” to walk the trails and discuss the importance of leashing with dog owners.
Those interested in volunteering or with questions about the policy should contact Laura Mattei at email@example.com.
Trail maps for the Desert Natural Area are available at www.svtweb.org/memorialforest
Press release & photo submitted to SOURCE media by Sudbury Valley Trustees