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DCR's new Parks Rules and Regulations: Public Testimony

posted Nov 16, 2013, 8:47 AM by michele biscoe   [ updated Dec 6, 2013, 8:03 AM ]

Update Dec 05, 2013: FellsDOG co-founder, David Monahan, shares his public comments on the proposed new regulation in which he asks the DCR to  allow families to continue to enjoy beaches with our dogs as we have in the past (see below).

FellsDOG co-founder, Michele Biscoe, publicly requests that the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) "recognize persons with dogs under voice control as legitimate visitors in our Massachusetts Parks and bring its parks and recreation rules into accordance with this longstanding customary use".  Biscoe offered her verbal comments at a public hearing regarding the DCR's proposed new Parks and Recreation Rules on Tuesday evening, November 12, at the Community Rowing Center in Brighton. The full-text of Biscoe's testimony is attached below.

The Coalition of Massachusetts Dog-Owner Groups (MassDOG) discusses what the new regulations mean for people who visit state parks and recreational facilities with dogs The new regulations prohibit dogs on all state beaches from from April 1 through September 30.  The new regulations also prohibit dog owners from exercising voice control over our pets except in designated areas. Detailed information is available on the DCR's webpage under "Public Meeting Information & Materials".

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is accepting written comments on a proposed new regulation at 302 CMR 12.00 (Parks and Recreation Rules) until 5:00 p.m. E.S.T. on Friday, December 6, 2013. Please submit written comments to Laura Dietz, DCR Assistant General Counsel, via mail to Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Suite 600, Boston, MA 02114, or electronically to regs.comments@state.ma.us.

We welcome members of the Fells dog-owner community and the community of dog owners who enjoy state parks, forests and beaches across the Commonwealth to share your written comments in our discussion group.

Don't Let Them Do It!

posted Nov 11, 2013, 5:30 AM by michele biscoe   [ updated Nov 11, 2013, 6:11 AM ]

In 2012 people who visit the Middlesex Fells with dogs participated in a process that lasted almost the whole year to obtain accommodations to enjoy the trails of the Middlesex Fells with our dogs under voice control.  There are over 100 miles of trails in the Middlesex Fells.  We attended at least eight public meetings. We wrote over seventy letters. We submitted a petition with over three hundred unique signatures. How many miles of trails are there where dogs are allowed to be off leash?  That’s right. Zero.

There is not one inch of trail in the Fells for people with dogs under voice control.  Yet, for every two people visiting the Fells there is one dog, and 85% of dogs in the Fells are not restrained by a leash.  These are the MA Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) numbers from a survey they conducted at the Fells (We'd provide a link if the DCR hadn't taken it down:  For example, however, see our open letter to Senator Katherine Clark, Representative Paul A. Brodeur, Representative Paul J. Donato, Representative Christopher Fallon, Representative Sean Garballey,and Representative Stephen Smith in the Boston Globe.)

The codification of a state-wide leash law on DCR properties is bad policy: It is unenforceableIt ignores longstanding customary use of DCR facilities; Moreover, the proposed Park Rules and Regulations provide no guidance as to the process by which users may petition the DCR to designate and post areas where dogs are allowed off-leash.

Don't let them do it.  Please submit written testimony by 5:00 p.m. E.S.T. on Friday, December 6, 2013 to Laura Dietz via mail to Department of Conservation and Recreation, Suite 600, Boston, MA 02114, or electronically to regs.comments@state.ma.us.

A state-wide leash law is exactly what the DCR is proposing at public hearings across the state regarding the adoption of a new regulation at 302 CMR 12.00, "Park Rules and Regulations".  Hearings have already been held in South Carver and in Lawrence.  You can attend the next public hearing tomorrow night, Tuesday, November 12, in Brighton at the Community Rowing, Inc., 20 Nonantum Road, from 7:30 to 8:30 PM.  Additional meetings will be held on November 14 in West Boylston and on November 21 in Amherst.  Details about the public hearings are available from the DCR online (for a limited time only!) at http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/public-outreach/public-meetings/. (After the meeting dates pass, you'll have to try to find the information by following links on the DCR website for "past meetings".)

The Coalition of Massachusetts Dog Owner also has information about what the proposed new Parks Rules and Regulations mean for MA residents who share our lives with dogs.

Winchester Board of Selectmen Propose North Reservoir Access

posted Jul 10, 2013, 12:31 PM by michele biscoe   [ updated Jul 10, 2013, 1:09 PM ]

Proposed North Reservoir access. Credit: Town of Winchester website
Fells dog owners are grateful to the Winchester Board of Selectmen for voting to approve an interim plan to allow for walking and hiking activities as well as for dogs on leashes at a designated trail area around the North Reservoir for a trial period continuing through November 2013, at which time the policy will be reviewed by the Board of Selectmen. The image to the right, from the Town of Winchester website, shows the fire roads and trails that are now open to the public from dawn to dusk for walking and hiking activities as well as for dogs on leashes.  Click on the image to download a .pdf from the Town of Winchester website.  For complete details, please refer to the press release regarding Proposed North Reservoir Access from Town Manager, Richard C. Howard.

We are grateful, too, to Representative Jason M. Lewis for his advocacy for public access to the Winchester reservoir lands.

The Fells Dog Owner Group encourages everyone to enjoy the the designated trail area around the North Reservoir responsibly, to be respectful of the natural resource and the public water supply, and to be courteous to other visitors!

MassDOG suggests revisions to draft Parks and Recreation Rules and Regulations

posted Feb 18, 2013, 6:33 AM by michele biscoe

Fells dog owners, Michele Biscoe and Charlene Duffy Saulnier, attended the public meeting on January 10, 2013, at which Priscilla Geigis, DCR Director, MassParks, and Laura Deitz, DCR Assistant General Cousel, presented draft Parks and Recreation Rules and Regulations, which combine and will supersede existing regulations for all the different properties across the state that were formerly managed by the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) and the Division of Environmental Management (DEM) before Governor Mitt Romney merged the MDC and the DEM to form the DCR.  Discussion and Q&A were facilitated by Gary Briere, DCR Chief of Recreation, and closing remarks were offered by Samantha Overton, DCR Deputy Director, MassParks.

Overton requested that dog owners suggest language about voice control that the DCR can incorporate in the regulations.

The Coalition of Massachusetts Dog Owner Groups (MassDOG) has respectfully submitted suggested revisions to section 12.13: Rules of Conduct on DCR Properties – Pets (Pages 31-32) of the draft Parks and Recreation Rules and Regulations.

A formal hearing process, including statewide public hearings and a public comment period, will be conducted in accordance with requirements of the Massachusetts Secretary of State in early 2013. For more information, please call the DCR at 617-626-4974 or email DCR.Updates@state.ma.us.

First Annual Review of the Fells RMP Implementation

posted Jan 31, 2013, 11:43 AM by michele biscoe   [ updated Jan 31, 2013, 11:47 AM ]

When the Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the Middlesex Fells Reservation was unanimously approved by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Stewardship Council last year, not only the enforcement of the leash law on the trails but also the management of the off-leash area at Sheepfold were made subject to review. On Friday, February 1, the  Council will conduct the first annual review the  implementation of the Fells RMP.

The Stewardship Council meets from 1pm - 3pm, at Willowdale Estate, Bradley Palmer State Park, in Topsfield. The agenda is available online.

Everyone who enjoys the Middlesex Fells Reservation with dogs is encouraged to attend the meeting to hear the report by Tom Walsh, DCR Urban Parks Fells District Manager, Ale Echandi, DCR Natural Resources Specialist, and Mike Nelson, DCR Regional Park Ranger Supervisor, Urban Parks North Region.

The Council will hear public comments at the end of the meeting.  This will be an opportunity for those who visit the Fells with dogs to speak about their experiences at Sheepfold and on the trails.

New Rules and Regulations for State Parks

posted Jan 7, 2013, 1:57 PM by michele biscoe

The Coalition of Massachusetts Dog Groups (MassDOG) discusses four proposed changes to the rules and regulations at parks across the Commonwealth that are managed by the state's Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) that will impact the way that we enjoy our state parks:  
  1. Prohibiting dogs on all state beaches from from April 1 through September 30;
  2. Establishing a "leash law" in state forests outside of greater Boston where voice control has been the longstanding customary use;
  3. Requiring commercial dog walkers--defined as "any person who receives compensation for walking one or more dogs"--to obtain and display a special use permit; and
  4. Empower the DCR to designate areas where dogs are allowed off-leash.
These proposed changes are incorporated in the draft revision of chapter 302 of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations, section 12 (302 CMR 12.00) "Parks and Recreation Rules", which will supersede existing regulations 350 CMR 2.00, 350 CMR 12.00, and 304 CMR 12.00 and establish a consistent (read: cookie-cutter) policy for all the different properties across the state that were formerly managed by the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) and the Division of Environmental Management (DEM).  (Note: Governor Mitt Romney merged the MDC and the DEM to form the DCR.)

The DCR is holding a public meeting on the proposed regulations on Thursday, January 10, 2013, from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Ponkapoag Golf Course, 2167 Washington Street, Canton, MA.

Following the public meeting, there will be a formal hearing process, including statewide public hearings and a public comment period, to be conducted early this year.  Additional information is available from the DCR.

Fells Work Day with the DCR and GBNEMBA - Sunday, August 26

posted Aug 14, 2012, 4:37 PM by michele biscoe

Part of the Reservoir (Orange) Trail was rerouted on June 30, and to complete that project GBNEMBA will be working with DCR to revegetate the now closed section of the trail.

According to GBNEMBA, who are respected for their experience as trail-builders, 

"Whenever a trail is rerouted the final, critical step is to closed down the original trail bed and effectively make it disappear. This allows the ecosystem to regenerate and return to a natural state. In most cases we accomplish this by using plantings and native materials to restore the old trail bed to look as if it is undisturbed like the areas around it and remove any obvious sight lines indicating that a trail was there."

Join GBNEMBA on Sunday, August 26, from 9am to 1pm and help complete the closure of that section of trail. Wear clothing suitable for light digging, closed-toe shoes and work gloves if you have them. Bug spray is a good idea as is a water bottle. GBNEMBA will provide lunch.

Meet at the Chandler (Fire) Road gate on the west side of the Sheepfold driveway (just after you go under the bridge when you are headed into Sheepfold, on the left). If you arrive after 9am and no one is there, take Chandler Road (on foot) until the Orange trail turns left and just follow that for a very short distance and you will find the crew.

Complete details are available from the GBNEMBA website.

What is the Real Agenda of the Friends of the Fells?

posted Aug 12, 2012, 8:40 AM by michele biscoe   [ updated Aug 12, 2012, 8:53 AM ]

Last week the Friends of the Fells (FoF) made the local papers over their outrage about the removal of stone steps on the Reservoir (Orange) Trail.
The FoF maintain that the DCR has destroyed a revered section of the Reservoir Trail (the pages on the FoF website are not static, so links to screenshots are provided). Under the current news section of their website, they write:

"For the first time since creation of the Middlesex Fells Reservation, its managing agency is destroying historic trails that for nearly a century have served to protect nature and enhance visitor experiences.  This destruction follows a new policy of unbridled expansion of mountain bike use throughout the Reservation.

"Mountain bike riders cannot negotiate rock steps, so DCR is destroying them on the Reservoir Trail. This is the second section of rock steps demolished by DCR to render the Reservoir Trail convenient for bikers.

"DCR is also bypassing other sections of the Trail by cutting new bike-friendly routes through new sections of the Fells, disturbing habitats and landscapes."

Do not be fooled:  In a  letter to the editor of the Melrose Free Press  on Friday DCR Commissioner, Ed Lambert, identifies this rhetoric for what it is:

"[I]t is disturbing to see the misinformation being disseminated by a group that refers to itself as the “Friends of the Fells” which is deliberately misleading the public in its suggestion that DCR is destroying the Fells and tearing up historic trails.

"We strongly object to such characterizations and believe these actions are part of an agenda that seeks to limit access to other user groups that the 'Friends' does not support."

See also: Re-routing the Multi-Use Reservoir Trail

Re-routing the Multi-Use Reservoir Trail

posted Aug 12, 2012, 8:39 AM by michele biscoe   [ updated Aug 12, 2012, 8:42 AM ]

Among other things, the Resource Management Plan for the Middlesex Fells Reservation (RMP) provides for slightly increased access to the Reservation for mountain bikes. For example, a trail on which mountain bikes were previously prohibited, the Reservoir (Orange) Trail, was designated a multi-use trail.

The DCR partnered with the Greater Boston chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association (GB NEMBA), to identify problem areas on the Reservoir Trail to be fixed before officially opening it for multi-use. I am grateful to Adam Glick and Tim Post of GB NEMBA for helping me understand the background and the details of the situation.

In the late winter of 2012 DCR and GB NEMBA created a list of about a dozen issues, of which four were identified as "Priority Projects."  One of the Priority Projects involved an area of trail that had become a mud pit because it was poorly located in a wetland:  the goal of the project was to re-route the trail to higher ground and create a sustainable, contoured reroute that would both protect the wetland and keep the trail in that approximate location.

The rerouted trail completely avoids the wetland.  It is a single-track 3' wide trail, whereas the segment it replaces was 8-12' wide.

A narrower tread is consistent with contemporary best practices in recreational trail-building.  Writing for the Medford Transcript, Nicholas Iovino refers to the National Park Service’s Guide to Sustainable Mountain Trails: Trail Assessment, Planning & Design Sketchbook - 2007 Edition:

In his book . . . Hugh Duffy states that 'front country' trails, or trails three to five miles from a trailhead, should have a recommended width of two to five feet.

“'I can also visualize areas that might even have 18 [inch] wide trails in NPS units in the front country,' Duffy wrote in an e-mail."

This is clearly a win-win situation.  The Reservoir Trail reroute will reduce the impact on the natural resources of the the Middlesex Fells Reservation and make the the trail more accessible to more people.

The DCR erred, however, in failing to communicate with the Stoneham Conservation Commission regarding the closure of the old section of trail. Wetlands are protected by the Wetlands Protection Act [Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) Chapter 131, Section 40], which is administered at the local level by the municipality's conservation commission.  A DCR spokesperson told the Matt Byrne, for the Boston Globe, “'We did not [file plans with the Conservation Commission] and that was a mistake.”

Are there Coyotes in the Fells?

posted Jul 16, 2012, 4:16 AM by michele biscoe

On Tuesday, July 17, the Fells Dog Owner Group is proud to present John Marguanis, Project Coyote Massachusetts Representative. Marguanis will speak at 7:00 p.m. about "Living with Coyotes" at the Botume House in the Middlesex Fells Reservation, 4 Woodland Road, Stoneham, MA.  All are welcome!

Last spring, there were several posts in our Facebook group about coyote sightings as well as several news stories about Coyotes in the area. Fells Dog Owners invited Marguanis to speak with us to help us better understand coyotes--including their territorial, reproductive, and feeding behaviors--in the interest of our own safety, that of our pets and that of America's native wild "song dog". Marguanis and Project Coyote are dedicated to educating communities about why coyotes matter ecologically and why they deserve respect and appreciation.

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