After reviewing a report on incidents at the park written by Madelyn Cirinna, the town's animal care and control officer, town leaders said if things don't improve, access could be limited to West Newbury residents only and pet owners could be required to leash their dogs at all times. Mill Pond, a town-owned forest and park with walking trails, is located on Main Street (Route 113).
Cirinna notes there is an increased occurrence of dog feces at the town recreation spot despite the availability of dispensers with bags. Numerous incidents of dogs chasing horses, mountain-bike riders, and hikers on trails are detailed as well.
In one case a pit bull, whose owner was unknown, bit a Haverhill resident, requiring her to undergo a series of post-exposure rabies vaccines as a precaution.
"Some people have control of their dogs and others do not. Many of these dogs are way ahead of their owners and out of sight. With the use of long lines or Flexi Leads, dogs can get adequate exercise while walking with their owners and everyone will be safe," Cirinna suggested. "Most of the people walking in the area are not West Newbury residents. Many people told me they come to West Newbury 'because it is the only place dogs may be off leash,'" reported Cirinna, noting that many out-of-towners refer to the Mill Pond Area as "the dog park in West Newbury."
"Madelyn thinks this is a bigger job than she can handle," Chairman Glenn Kemper told the other selectmen at a meeting this week. The report, which details Cirinna's involvement at Mill Pond for one month this summer, includes 20 incidents involving non-residents.
"Making the area 'residents only' would help greatly," she wrote.
Kemper said there was also a concern from the Board of Health over people swimming in the pond.
According to the Pipestave Hill Management Plan, no one should be swimming there unless the water is being tested to ensure it complies with state safety codes - a step that is not currently happening, Kemper said.
A family of Canada geese created "a mess at the beach;" signs of alcohol consumption were noted by the dock; pet owners were playing with their dogs on the adjacent athletic fields; motorcycle riders were spotted driving in the hay field; and horse owners parked their trailers on the beach access road and rode along the beach, instead of parking on the upper lot and accessing trails from behind the Mill Pond Recreation Building, according to the report.
During the month, Cirinna documented one anonymous message from a woman complaining about the rules and regulations.
"If people don't like dogs, they shouldn't come to Mill Pond," the message stated.
Although signs have been posted on trees and boards and she has personally handed out leaflets to inform people visiting the area of the policies governing dogs, horses and swimming, Cirinna said larger signage is needed. Selectmen agreed to ask the DPW to look into more prominent signs.
Ultimately, though, Cirinna proposes making the area "residents only" and requiring dogs on leashes at all times.
"Those are pretty drastic measures, but improvements do need to happen," agreed Selectman Dick Cushing.