Its getting harder and harder to find woods and meadows where a dog can roam off-leash. Under Article 6, Section 8 of the Town Charter, dogs aren’t allowed off-leash anywherein New Canaan public parks except in Spencer’s Run at Waveny.
That includes the Bristow Bird Sanctuary, whose deed requires it “forever [be] maintained as a Bird Sanctuary and Wildwood Preserve and used for no other purpose whatsoever.” That language prompted a recommendation by Parks & Rec in 2014 to ban dogs from Bristow. Dog lovers responded and the Town Council took up the debate in 2015. We ruled with the dogs when Animal Control Officer Kleinshmitt testified that deer, not leashed dogs, have the greatest impact on ground-nesting birds. Vice Chairman Steve Karl recognized the importance of green corridors to our community saying, “Hopefully between the Conservation Commission and Park & Recreation Commission, we can make some improvements over there to make it nice for everybody—people, birds and dogs.”
Now what? The Land Trust off-leash policy is under review. When off-leash dogs are not controlled they present a problem for neighbors and walkers. Recently, there was a complaint over large dogs jumping on an 18 month child in the 40 acre Watson-Symington Woodlands. Another dog ignored his owner’s pleas and followed a jogger down Wellesley Road.
All other Land Trusts in Fairfield County require that the dogs be controlled on leashes (with one exception). Some board members believe the intensity of use on more popular parcels warrants rethinking land trust policy there.
New Canaan is proud of the fact that we can offer off-leash walks, a rare privilege indeed. The response to traffic is increase our holdings and open up more parcels to public visitation, saying we have enough land to accommodate everybody. Chris Schipper called the incident the rare exception saying, “We’ve had 2 complaints in 5 years. Neither were members of the Land Trust. Don’t create blanket rulings to deal with exceptions. There are many other parcels to visit.” Discussion continues.
Sunday April 22 is Earth Day. The Land Trust will open a new Green Link trail between Irwin Park and the Nature Center, completing a 3-mile walkable loop. As New Canaan “nature sanctuaries” become more popular should they be managed like Parks? Write your vote on the back of a $100 bill and send it to the Land Trust at Box 425, New Canaan, CT 06840