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Talking Points for Public Comments on the RMP

posted Nov 15, 2011, 3:39 AM by michele biscoe   [ updated Nov 15, 2011, 3:39 AM ]
The public comment period for the Middlesex Fells Reservation Draft Resource Management Plan (RMP) ends on November 14, 2011. 

Off Leash Allowed. Photo by Bill Ritchotte
The deadline to submit comments on the draft Middlesex Fells Reservation Resource Management Plan (RMP) is Monday, November 14.  Your comments really could mean the difference between whether or not the final RMP is revised to allow dogs off-leash on at least some part of the official trail system in addition to the designated off-leash area at Sheepfold.

The Fells Dog Owner Group is pleased to suggest the following six talking points to help you compose your comments.  We’ve ordered them according to our priorities:  If you want to write a shorter letter, you don’t have to include all of them.

For your convenience, we've also prepared a form letter that covers all six of the talking points below, but the DCR has asked people to submit original comments.

Please submit all comments before the deadline (November 14) to rmp.comments@state.ma.us

or by mail to:
Fells RMP Comments
136 Damon Road
Northampton, MA, 01060

1. Off-Leash On-Trail

Given that the DCR has found that at any given time dogs can outnumber hikers in the Fells, given that the DCR has found that 85% of dogs at the Fells are off-leash, and given that it is the official trail system that sustains this high level of off-leash recreational use, the reasonable goal should be to keep off-leash dogs at the Fells on well-established trails. I support an implementation of Goal G4.7 that allows dogs off-leash on at least some part of the official trail system in addition to the designated off-leash area at Sheepfold.

2. Prohibition of Off-Trail Recreation

The official trail system is what sustains the high volume of recreational use at the Fells.  According to the draft RMP “the natural resources currently within in the Fells have co-existed with high levels of recreational use for decades, if not over a century” (49).  This is because, “on well established trails, even large increases in use will result in minimal increases in impact.”  Conversely, “where use levels are low, such as off-trail, small differences in the amount of use can result in substantial differences in impact.” (p 49-50).  I support the goal to “enforce the prohibition of off-trail recreation” (Goal G2.3).

3. Reduce Dog Waste

Visitors with dogs should clean up after their dogs every time and should dispose of dog waste properly, in accordance with the prevalent “carry in, carry out” policy at the Fells.  I support the goals related to reducing the impact of dog waste at the Fells (Goal G1.10. “Enforce dog-owners properly picking up and disposing of dog waste”; and Goal G1.11. “Educate dog-owners about the potential impact of dog waste on water supplies”).

4. Three Dogs per Person

support a 3-dog per person limit (Goal G4.7), but I am willing to entertain the possibility of exempting commercial dog walkers who have obtained a special permit from the DCR to exceed the limit.

5. Day-Use Fee at Sheepfold

The draft RMP provides for off-leash recreation only at Sheepfold, therefore a day-use fee is effectively a tax on visitors to the off-leash recreational area.  A fee that targets visitors with off-leash dogs is unfair and I oppose the goal of considering a “pay and display” day-use fee at the Sheepfold (G4.4).

6. Trail-Free Areas

To best protect the natural and cultural resources of the Fells, it is important that trail-free areas of the Fells be maintained trail-free.  I support the goal to “maintain large trail-free areas as trail free”(G2.2).

The Draft Resource Management Plan as well as the Executive Summary are available on the DCR website on the Resource Management Plan page for the Middlesex Fells Reservation Planning Unit.