Dogs will no longer be permitted to be walked off-leash , though the Aspetuck Land Trust has designated two miles of trails in the conservation area's Crow Hill section for that purpose.
The land trust, which owns the conservation area located in northern Weston and Easton, commissioned the Connecticut Audubon Society's conservation services staff to conduct a year-long study to "to better identify the wildlife and ecologically fragile areas within the preserve," according to a press release. During that time, dogs weren't allowed to be walked off-leash.
The study concluded in November 2012, and perhaps the biggest change in policy the land trust adopted was the conservation area's new leash requirement.
“It’s our responsibility to manage and preserve Trout Brook Valley for future generations, and we now have a plan to do this based upon the scientific findings in this report," said David Brant, executive director of the land trust. "Our next step is to better educate the public about this unique and important natural resource."
According to the land trust, hundreds of dogs visit Trout Brook Valley on busy weekends, and because of this, keeping them on-leash is necessary in order to "better protect the environment and preserve the abundant but fragile wildlife diversity that exists." The Connecticut Audubon Society concluded the cumulative effect of dogs going off the trails "can be harmful."
Trout Brook Valley's new policies go into effect on April 1, but until that time, dogs still must be walked on-leash.
Other policy changes include the following:
- Posting signs prohibiting horses and mountain bikes at both ends of the red-black trail (except for July, August and September)
- Closing the yellow trail to all uses except foot traffic
- Closing a small section of the orange trail that bisects a tributary stream and vernal pool
About Trout Brook Valley
According to the Connecticut Audubon Society's report, Trout Brook Valley "is one of the most important ecological features of Fairfield County" as it "forms the core of a 6,400-acre expense that serves as the 'green heart' of the region."
"Trout Brook Valley was destined to become a private golf and country club enclave dotted with 103 luxury homes," the press release says. "In 1999, Aspetuck Land Trust led a coalition of local groups including the state of Connecticut and the Nature Conservancy to acquire the land and incorporate it into two preserves it owned to the north and south. This created what is now called the Trout Brook Valley Conservation Area, one of the largest blocks of undeveloped land in Fairfield County."
Former Patch columnist Ben Hume—who wrote the Hiking with the Dogs columns for 18 months—voiced his displeasure at the park's new regulations.
"The game of golf has less regulations and the course fewer signs than you'll find in this section of woods," Hume wrote in response to a blog post from the Audubon Society's Tom Andersen. "It's exactly what I go hiking to escape."
According to the land trust, Trout Brook Valley "encompasses mixed hardwood forest, forested wetlands and scrub-shrub wetlands, seasonal pools, early successional fields, grasslands and orchard, numerous brooks and streams, and talus slopes."
"Native Brook Trout and American Eel live in the preserve’s streams. Its wetlands support an array of reptiles and amphibians, including Spotted Salamanders, Marbled Salamanders and the state-listed Jefferson’s Salamander. The bird populations are abundant and diverse, and include 156 species and numerous species of conservation concern including 21 state-listed species."
Off-leash dog walking is allowed on the trust's other 41 nature preserves with the exception of the Newman Poses preserve in Westport, the release says.