Dog owners are always looking for a good place to walk their pooch. The trail and surroundings are important, and passionate pet lovers are serious about bringing their dog out for what is surely his favorite part of the day.
Northborough Patch took a walk with Northborough's Leslee Robinson and her dog, Roxie, recently around Lake Chauncy in Westborough. Roxie loves Robinson's "job."
Robinson, along with Michelle Discoe, are dedicated to finding, and improving trails for dog-walking in this area.
They're members of the Massachusetts Recreational Trail Advisory Board, a volunteer board that gives advice to the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation involving the trail community. MARTAB was established in 1992, and gives advice and feedback to the Department of Conservation and Recreation on the trail community.
MARTAB encompasses representatives from each of the major trail user groups, including horseback riding, mountain biking and motorized vehicles. As part of the Coalition of Massachusetts Dog Owner Group (Mass-Dog), Discoe from Somerville and Robinson work closely with DCR to provide feedback of the dog trails, and also advocate for off-leash dog areas.
"It's a step in the right direction because usually dog walking is ignored in all the states," said Robinson. "It's now being considered a type of recreational activity. Some people play golf. Some run. I walk my dog. It is my sport."
The volunteers on MARTAB have a "big say" in how funds get distributed to the Recreational Trails Program (a federal fund), advising the DCR on conditions of the trails throughout the state.
"The trail thing is more complicated than I ever realized," said Robinson. "A trail that is good for biking isn't necessarily good for hiking. There are amounts of clearance and maintenance that have to be considered. No one wants to pay taxes, but if you don't maintain these trails, they don't exist."
For dog walking, Lesless says, it's imperative that there is more room than the usual trail. To accomodate dogs walking on and off leashes, it's important to be able to pass others, which sometimes could even be a horse.
Some trails that Robinson focuses on include Mt. Pisgah (near where she lives in Northborough), Hopkinton State Park and Lake Chauncy, which is run by Westborough Fish and Game.
Robinson tries to hit different trails every day, and always brings Roxie, who is 6, along.
She hopes that Massachusetts will follow the lead of Boulder, CO, which instituted a program called the "Voice and Sight Tag Program" for its state parks. That means some dogs are allowed off leash, and some are not, depending on whether the dog passes the training program.
"They have wonderful signage and rules for on leash or off leash," said Robinson. "Everyone gets along and uses the trails, but have to be courteous. I would love to see that here. I'm at the beginning of this whole process, and that's the kind of voice we'll have."