Cape Elizabeth panel to scrutinize policy for dogs on trails

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The Conservation Commission next year will revisit the policy allowing dogs on the Greenbelt Trails system.

The commission will be discussing leash laws for 17 of the 23 miles of trails the town owns and maintains. In the meantime, people are being reminded to respect other trail users.

“We’re trying to remind people that these are multi-user trails,” Town Planner Maureen O’Meara said. “We should always be trying to educate people about the trails and proper use.”

According to the town website, the trails are used by walkers, runners, dog walkers, cross-country skiers and bicyclists. Some trails are also used by horseback riders and snowmobile riders.

O’Meara said there have been issues with dog walkers, and the town has received “a couple of complaints.” There was one recent incident about a person allegedly being bitten by a dog, but no further information was available.

Last December, the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust established leash laws for its trails in Robinson Woods, after several people were bitten by dogs. The rules were later revised, after many dog walkers complained.

On trails owned by the town, dogs are now allowed off leash if they’re under voice control, are well-behaved, and responsive to their owners.

“Our position is that we have a policy in place right now and we’re having another meeting in the spring,” O’Meara said.

According to the town website, “If a pet tends to lunge at other dogs, people, bikers, etc., it should be on a leash. Assume trail users do not want your dog menacing or jumping on them, even if your dog is ‘just being friendly.'”

O’Meara said the commission discussed the policy last spring and decided to add signs and a pet waste station. She said it’s “not a bad idea to revisit” the policy and see if any more changes should be made, or if anything can be improved.

“Some policy change may come of (the meeting), but nothing’s proposed,” she said.

The town website also says that the Greenbelt Walkway benefits from being used by dog walkers: “Dog walkers are heavy Greenbelt trail users and benefit other trail users by keeping vegetation down and snow packed in the winter. Like any other user group, dog walking is managed to preserve trail use for all.”

O’Meara said ideally, people would be mindful and respectful of others using town-owned trails.

“We’d like to manage the trails in a way in which people do the right thing,” she said. “A lot of incidents are when people aren’t thinking about what they’re doing.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

The Cape Elizabeth Conservation Commission will revisit the dog policy for greenbelt trails next spring.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.