The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 26, 2002


Off-leash dog walking at Great Brook Farm State Park in jeopardy

If you are one of the many dog walkers who have enjoyed a ramble with your dog along the trails of Great Brook Farm State Park, be aware. The park, which is one of the few state parks that allows off-leash dogs on the premises, is considering severely restricting off-leash privileges.

"Four Paw Park"

Concerned dog owners meet with Great Brook Farm State Park Supervisor Ray Faucher to discuss how to teach "good dog owner etiquette" to those who walk their dogs off-leash in the park. (Photo by Mike Quayle )

The park, which is known in some circles as a "Four Paw Park" (as in "four-star restaurant"), has drawn more and more dog walkers over the years. In 2001 park supervisor Ray Faucher received a larger number of dog-related complaints than usual, followed by four more complaints in the first three months of this year. Faucher, who is concerned about the safety and enjoyment of all park users, therefore began to contemplate a plan which would severely restrict off-leash privileges to between dawn and 10:00 a.m. beginning in March 2002. Eliminating off-leash access to the park altogether was also seriously considered.

Fortunately for dog walkers, word got out via the grapevine to a regular group of dog-walkers in the park, which included Judy Asarkof of Carlisle. Asarkof, Mary Ann Callahan of Tyngsboro, and a group of others from surrounding towns, all of whom have been walking their dogs together in the park for the past seven years, decided to take an active approach to the problem before limits were set. Their idea was to educate dog walkers in the park, who in turn would take it upon themselves to solve the problem. They met with Faucher to explain the campaign they wished to launch and Faucher, who was impressed with their plan, agreed to hold off on any policy changes and help initiate their education plan.

The group, called TrailBerners and Friends, came up with the idea of publishing a brochure which would outline the most common dog-related complaints and ways to handle them. On April 6, a meeting was arranged for concerned dog owners to meet with Faucher at Great Brook Farm for a half-hour presentation, followed by distribution of the brochures that would be handed out to other dog walkers coming into the park. "I talked to the group," said Faucher, "and explained there needed to be an attitude adjustment. If I continued to get an abnormal number of complaints this year, I'd have to change the rules." He also emphasized that there would be times when owners should put their dogs on a leash, thus making it necessary for the owners to have a leash with them at all times. "My intent is not to change the policy," continued Faucher. "I want to provide people with the opportunity to let their dogs run, without a negative effect on the general public. I don't want it to become a dog park."

Not a dog issue ­ an owner issue

The brochure, sponsored by TrailBerners and Friends in cooperation with Great Brook Farm State Park, is full of information that would be helpful to all dog owners, regardless of where they walk. An important principle to be followed, which is law in the park and common sense in all public spaces in Carlisle, is that if you do not have verbal control of your dog, your dog must be on-leash at all times. As the brochure points out, the following complaints have put off-leash dog walking at Great Brook in jeopardy:

· Aggressive or threatening behavior towards other dogs and people

· Unmannerly or over-friendly behavior, including rushing or jumping on dogs or other people

· Failing to pick up after your dog

· Picking up, but leaving a filled plastic bag on the side of the trail, in a tree, on a sign, etc.

To be sure that dogs and their owners are practicing good canine citizenship, it is suggested that dog owners take time to read the brochure. It may be picked up at the Great Brook Farm parking lot and has an important message for all Carlisle dog owners.

For more information log on to or call Mary Ann Callahan at 1-978-649-7905, or Judy Asarkof at 1-978-287-4575 (

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito