WEST NEWBURY — Irresponsible pet owners continue to mess with the enjoyment of the trails around the reservoir on Moulton Street, and at least one town official is fed up.
At a recent session of the Select Board, member David Archibald warned his colleagues in advance that he was going to need to sell a little. He then launched into a complaint about the many dog owners who refuse to properly look after their pets when visiting the Moulton Street reservoir.
It’s a topic that Archibald has raised more than eleven over the past few years. As he shared his most recent experience with him while running in the area, his frustration with him was palpable.
Despite posted signs reminding visitors to clean up after their dogs, Archibald discovered multiple bags of dog feces scattered on the ground, despite a trash barrel sitting “literally 5 feet away.”
Unbagged dog waste dotted the scenic shoreline of the water resource—also referred to as the Indian Hill or Cherry Hill reservoir.
“I was sort of appalled,” Archibald said. I have contacted Public Works Director Wayne Amaral, who he called “very responsive” in immediately dealing with the dog mess, but still the situation left Archibald feeling disheartened.
“I just wish that people were a little less callous,” Archibald said.
“For some reason, some people refuse to be responsible,” said Chair Rick Parker, stressing his belief that “most people are probably very responsible.”
But Archibald swiftly rebutted that comment, telling his colleague, “if you saw how much stuff there was — you wouldn’t say ‘most.’“
The board received public pushback when it voted in October 2018 to prohibit allowing dogs off leash around the reservoir after hearing of too many reported incidents of aggressive dogs or dogs not being properly monitored that were interfering with people’s enjoyment of the area.
The new regulation, which was stricter than the town’s leash law, garnered strong criticism from dog walkers who felt they were being unfairly maligned due to the inconsiderate actions of a few.
They stressed that they could — and did — self-police the area to directly address thoughtless or negligent dog owners. The board agreed to place trash barrels in the area and modify the policy, posting signs that read:
“Dogs must be under owner’s control at all times” and “Public water supply: Please clean up after your dog.”
This week, the board weighed the possibility of closing the area to dog walkers entirely for a while to emphasize the seriousness of the problem. The area around the reservoir is a popular area for birding, hiking, running, and dog walking. Because it is a public drinking water resource, prohibited uses include swimming, boating, use of motorized vehicles, or having dogs chase sticks into the reservoir.
“There are a few bad actors who won’t respond to anything, but others may respond,” Parker said.
Ultimately, the board agreed it might be a regulation that is hard to enforce.
Archibald felt an education campaign is needed. Would the Newburyport Water Department be willing to issue a statement? he said. Town Clerk Jim Blatchford suggested including a message about the issue in the next townwide mailing.
The town officials liked that idea, but with many of the dog walkers coming from out of town — or even out of state — just how much of a solution it will be remains to be seen.
Purchased around 1979 by neighboring Newburyport for $307,800, the 120 acres that became the reservoir were previously owned by nine private property owners including Cherry Hill Nurseries, the Elwell Family and Lincoln Walker.
The reservoir, completed in 1981 for $1 million, reservoir contains 650 million gallons of water from a combination of area springs and runoff from Indian Hill, Illsley Hill, Cherry Hill and other spots.
Although owned by Newburyport and used for its surface water supply, the reservoir is located entirely within West Newbury and the town supplements its drinking water supply through purchases from the city.
In October 2002, Great Woods Custom Homes deeded a portion of the former Cherry Hill Nursery to the town, and the Select Board became the municipal body authorized to manage the property and impose any restrictions deemed necessary.