“Tails, Trails And Tales”: Etiquette For Dogs (And Their Owners)

Haskins Preserve is going to the dogs.


The 16-acre park off Green Acre Lane — itself a quiet, lovely road off South Compo — is an astonishing place. Filled with woods, meadows, 2 ponds, dams, and a spectacular assortment of rare trees, it’s one of Westport’s most wonderful little gems.

It’s beloved by nature lovers. Walkers. And — in this dog-crazy town — dog owners.

Haskins Preserve's dogwoods and daffodils -- a lovely combination.

Haskins Preserve’s dogwoods and daffodils — a lovely combination.

The latter group does not always treat the preserve well. I’ve posted 2 stories in the past 3 years about dog issues. One described bags of poop left on a sign requesting owners to remove waste. The other was about mounting mounds of doo left all over the beautiful property.

That crappy problem is now worse than ever. There are also reports of out-of-control dogs threatening wildlife — it’s a nature preserve, not a park — as well as other dogs, even people.

Ground nesting birds can be chased from their nests by free-running dogs — on purpose, or inadvertently. If it happens often, birds won’t return to the nest.

And dogs looking to refresh themselves with a harmless jump into a forest pool can silt it up, destroying egg larvae from salamanders and frogs. That, of course, affects many other types of interconnected wildlife.


A hard-to-believe scene at Haskins Preserve.

Aspetuck Land Trust — the non-profit organization that maintains Haskins, as well as many other open spaces in Westport, Weston, Fairfield and Easton — is not rolling over and playing dead.

This Saturday (May 7, 10 a.m.-noon), they’re sponsoring a free, open-to-the-public class in dog and dog owner etiquette.

“Tails, Trails and Tales” will be conducted as a hike. Connecticut Audubon Society senior director of science and conservation Milan Bull, his dog Edge, and noted dog trainer Jason Hofmann will walk, talk and provide answers to questions you’ve always wondered about: What does a dog sense in the woods? What does a biologist observe? How do we accommodate both, and protect the environment too?

(Interestingly, except for Edge, this is a dog-free event. The hike leaders request no dogs, to avoid chaos.)

Responsible dog owners respect property -- and all animals.

Responsible dog owners respect property — and all animals.

“Tails, Trails and Tales” is limited to 20 people. To RSVP, email administration@aspetucklandtrust.

Parking is available at the preserve, on Green Acre Lane off South Compo.

Which is not to be confused with Westport’s actual dog park, Winslow, on North Compo.

(To read more about Haskins Preserve, click here.)

11 responses to ““Tails, Trails And Tales”: Etiquette For Dogs (And Their Owners)

  1. Roberta Tager

    Good work Dan! Please, someone please have a waste basket installed… Also cameras. If we cannot act civilized…. Then what?

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Diane Cady

    if a garbage can shows up, it gets heavy and SOMEONE has to empty it (where?) and my sense of this is that this park is not set up for that kind of service. This is not Town property. We Westporters are used to a high level of care and have gained a reputation of being demanding.

    • Peter Blau

      Can’t we have some uniformed town park concierges to scoop the poop for us?

  3. Ann Marie Flynn

    Ban the dogs is an excellent idea. We are fortunate to have Winslow Park all year and the beach in season for them to enjoy.
    The disturbance at Haskins Preserve will go on with the beautiful wild life there regardless of how many barrels are placed…..plus the pups will still get excited and want to do a chase.
    Let’s share with the other critters in our town. There needs need attending too.

  4. Matthew Mandell

    Since we are talking Dogs here. The Chamber of Commerce is running a Dog Festival on Sunday June 5 10am – 4pm of Winslow Park.

    Big event, with contests, demonstrations, vet seminars, obstacle course, vendors and food trucks………..

    more info …. http://www.westportwestonchamber.com/dogs

    There will be trainers there, so maybe some dogs might learn something.

  5. Matthew Mandell

    ON Winslow park. Park at the Playhouse.

  6. Elaine Marino

    Dan wrote a piece on the Haskins Preserve in April 2011. Below is an except of a comment from “Not a Stepford,” back when anonymous comments were allowed:

    “Let’s hope this hidden gem doesn’t become another dog park. During a walk at Trout Brook Valley two weeks ago, the longtime warden of the land when it belonged to the water company said there are no more animals left in the preserve because the dogs scared them all away.”

  7. Kathy Calise

    This problem is not only in the parks, dog walkers on the streets feel that they can leave their bags any place they choose. I have seen them in the drains, in front of my garbage shed and in my garbage. When you ask if they are going to pick it up they get very offensive and nasty. Here is a suggestion let your dog go in your yard and then take them for a walk.

  8. The “Tails, Trails and Tales” hike is offered annually by ALT. I went on one of these hikes a couple of years ago. It was well done, interesting and informative. Milan and Jason do a nice job. Unfortunately, however, the hikers represented only two categories of people: 1) those who didn’t even own a dog, but were interested in going on a hike and 2) those of us who own dogs, but know enough to keep them on leash as well as clean-up after them in a supposed conservation area. In other words, those dog walkers who could benefit from the messages delivered were no where to be found. I cannot imagine this or any other year’s hike being any different. For those of us who were interested in how to deal with encounters with undisciplined dogs in the woods and their owners, the advice we received (which I regrettably have to agree with) was to take our dog walks at different locations or at different times of day to try and minimize conflict and keep our dogs safe. Bottom line, ALT’s efforts to deal with off-leash dogs and their owners, not to mention piles of poop, have been largely ineffective.

  9. Cynthia Fox

    I can’t help but wonder what the donors would think of how this property is being managed. Was this land intended as a dog park?