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Dogs Can't Run Free At Easton's Trout Brook Valley

Susan Ingall’s dogs, Bear and Babbit, love to run freely through the 21 miles of trails in Trout Brook Valley.

“It keeps them happy and healthy and well-behaved,” said Ingall, who lives near the Bradley Road entrance in Weston.

In early June , signs went up at the entrances to Trout Brook Valley in Easton and Weston announcing that dogs must be leashed until further notice. This followed an incident where a dog killed baby foxes.

“It was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said David Brant, executive director at the Aspetuck Land Trust . “We’ve had dogs bite people and threaten people. They run through the woods out of sight of their owners and run in the trout streams, through wetlands, etc. etc. etc.”

The Aspetuck Land Trust board decided two weeks ago to study the impact of dogs on Trout Brook Valley’s flora and fauna and is expected to make a policy on leashes by October. Since then, more signs have been placed around the entrances to Trout Brook Valley telling dog owners to keep their dogs leashed.

“It would be a sad thing to happen to this place,” Ingall said of a leash rule. “I think this is a real asset that Weston has.”

Ingall said she previously lived in a town where an off-leash privilege was taken away. “The dog population went down and there were more beer bottles and graffiti because it wasn’t as populated,” she said.

Brant said when the property was purchased in 1999 there weren’t a lot of users. Over the years, more and more people have discovered Trout Brook Valley and many have dogs, he said. “Because of the increased volume, there are more problems. More volume means more incidents with dogs off the leash.”

The "increased volume" is a result of the large open space at Trout Brook Valley and the fact that many towns and conservation groups, such as the Nature Conservancy, which owns Devil’s Den in Weston, don’t allow dogs–leash or not.

“It’s not an easy thing to do," Brant said. "We’re hoping we can have a policy that makes sense for people who have dogs and for wildlife.”

He said dogs effect the habitat and wildlife that live in Trout Brook Valley. “If dogs chase ducks, squirrels, foxes, it creates a stress on animals and threatens their survival,” Brant said.

The preserve is at the center of a 10-square-mile patch of undeveloped land in Easton and Weston. At 1,009 acres, it is one of the largest areas of unfragmented forest in Fairfield County, according to Brant.

“Wildlife like unfragmented forest [and] there’s not much in this part of the world,” he said.

The Aspetuck Land Trust board is completing a baseline documentation study in which it will take a survey of wildlife and habitat. Possible future rules could be leashing dogs on the weekend or setting a seasonal restriction for leashes.

Brant said he has received many emails from hikers at Trout Brook Valley concerning this issue, Ingall being one of them. The other trails maintained by the Aspetuck Land Trust still allow dogs to run freely, with the exception of the Newman Poses Preserve and the Stonebridge Waterfowl Preserve.

What do you think about the temporary policy requiring leashed dogs at Trout Brook Valley? Leave your comments below.

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