Abuses lead to dog ban at Pipestave Hill playing fields

BRYAN EATON/Staff Photo. Jenna Blum of Boston plays with her dog Woodrow at the Pipestave Hill and Mill Pond Recreation area in West Newbury on Saturday along with some friends from Georgetown.

WEST NEWBURY — Canines will no longer be welcome to romp and roam around West Newbury's Pipestave Hill athletic fields.

Following a decision at town meeting two weeks ago to restrict the numbers of dogs running off leash at the Mill Pond Recreation area, selectmen agreed it was time to prohibit dogs from the Pipestave Hill athletic fields.

The board received an email and photograph from Charles Osbourn showing two people with 16 dogs running off leash on one of the fields. Director Gary Bill of the Public Works Department suggested posting signs indicating no dogs are allowed on the fields.

“There’s enough area up there that they don’t have to walk their dogs on the fields,” agreed Selectmen Chairman Glenn Kemper.

Kemper noted that West Newbury is the only town in the area that he knows of that currently permits dogs on its municipal playing fields. The board agreed to address the issue with the Park and Recreation Commission and the Mill Pond Committee.

Mill Pond Recreation Area and Pipestave Hill adjoin each other. The two parks total 270 acres in size -- more than half as large as Maudslay State Park. It's the largest dog-friendly facility in the region. Crisscrossed with numerous trails, the town-owned land draws dogwalkers, hikers, and equestrians from a wide geographic area. The athletic fields account for a relatively small section of the large tract of land, but they are the largest open spaces on the land.

As part the Annual Town Meeting on April 27, voters passed an amendment to the Animal Bylaw that requires anyone walking four or more dogs on public property to keep them on a physical or electronic leash. The amendment was spurred by an increase in the number of professional dog walkers from out of town who were taking advantage of West Newbury’s lenient leash law resulting in too many instances where packs of dogs were running off leash around the recreation area.

Similar problems have been reported in Amesbury, where professional dog walkers had drawn complaints at Woodsom Farm and Battis Farm.

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