Dog droppings dampen Breakheart Reservation

SAUGUS – Take a walk at Breakheart Reservation these days and there’s a good chance you’ll step in dog poop.Hundreds of pooches get their daily exercise at the state park, leaving behind a minefield of droppings despite the availability of free pick-up bags in dispensers at both entrances.The situation has left Ed Murray, chairman of the Friends of Breakheart Reservation Board of Directors, fuming mad.”It’s disgusting and it’s unhealthy,” Murray said Tuesday. “It’s not the dogs who are the problem, it’s their output, shall we say. The problem stems from a certain percentage of dog owners who let their animals crap everywhere.”Murray sent an April 27 letter to Edward Lambert, commissioners of the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the state agency which oversees Breakheart Reservation, outlining the problem at Breakheart.”The DCR does not seem to have an enforcement plan in place for dealing with those less responsible dog owners,” he wrote. “Currently, this is the most common complaint I hear from the general public. Can you please provide me with a response I can relay to them?”According to Murray, the DCR rangers at the park are not empowered to write citations to dog owners who violate the rules. As he explained it, when the DCR and the state Department of Environmental Management merged, each had its own set of rules and regulations that remain uncombined.”That’s what I was told when I called, that they are powerless to stop it, but that sounds like a lot of bureaucratic BS to me. So I sent the commissioner a list of all the life-threatening microorganisms contained in dog waste,” said Murray. “I wanted to show him what you can catch from dog crap, so I put a title on it that said, ?Toxic Waste at Breakheart’ and I asked him why he is tolerating this. Well, I didn’t get a response. In fact, the silence has been deafening.”Murray said the rangers and other staff members based at Breakheart Reservation are doing all they can to encourage dog-owning visitors to abide by the rules for the good of all. “Unfortunately, we lost our main donor of pick-up bags, a lady from a pet-grooming service in Saugus. So the Friends have taken up the slack along with donations, mostly from members,” he said. “We’ll try to get through the summer, but people are wasteful. Some pull out eight to 10 bags at once. We find them unused, tossed on the side of the road.”Setting the matter straight will likely take an act of the state Legislature, but given it is budget-crunching season coupled with other higher-priority issues at the forefront, it’s not likely to happen, he said.Besides, he added, Breakheart Reservation like other state facilities may be faced with staff cuts come summer.Murray, who lives on Forest Street along the approach to the park off the Lynn Fells Parkway, estimated up to 500 dogs visit daily. “Some of these people are using Breakheart for a toilet and we have got to find a way to stop it. I see them. They come in, walk less than 100 yards into the park, let their dogs crap, don’t pick it up, then turn around and leave,” he said, referring to these visitors as “bag-challenged.”The situation is exacerbated in winter when fewer owners pick up after their dogs, turning the snow-covered woods into a wasteland from which emanates a springtime stench as the DCR plows the roads.Park staffers confirmed Murray’s observations, acknowledging they don’t have the authority to write citations or otherwise enforce the regulations.Asked about the merging of the two agencies and the potential snafu over combining the rules, DCR spokesman Wendy Fox said she was unaware of the situation and so could not comment, noting it would take a day or more to research.

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