Dog days at Breakheart Reservation

Amy Wedge with her dog, Azia, and Farrah Keegan with Rosie, walk out of Breakheart Reservation after taking their dogs to the dog park.


SAUGUS — Swimming may be off limits, but activity is far from frozen at Breakheart Reservation during the winter months.

Visitors can bring their four-legged friends to Bark Place, a dog park located about a quarter-mile into the woods from the Christopher P. Dunne Visitor Center.

The park is a large, fenced-in space where dogs can run around off leash. It was built about a decade ago when Ed Murray, the former president of the Friends of Breakheart, worried there wasn’t a place for people to bring their pets, said Peter Rossetti, the current president. Murray, who died in 2012, named the park after his dog Barkley.

Pat Jozsa, a longtime member of the Friends of Breakheart, said Bark Place has been a sanctuary for many residents’ pets, including her own.

“A lot of smaller dogs and younger dogs that need to exercise use the dog park,” Jozsa said. “It’s great for bringing puppies and just starting to get them acquainted with other animals.”

The fenced-in area has two gates to prevent escapees from running free, she said. The fencing is tall enough that they can’t jump over.

“It’s a great size and it’s always well maintained,” she said. “It gets a lot of use in the summer months but it’s open in the winter too.”

The 652-acre state park has much to offer to more than just its furry visitors.

“For a lot of people it’s just going to the Visitor’s Center, especially if there’s a fire going,” said Jozsa. “It’s just so relaxing and cozy — especially when it’s snowing.”

The visitor center remains open throughout the season. The park has many outdoor amenities that carry over into the colder months. Avid hikers seek views of the park’s two freshwater lakes and section of the Saugus River. Seven rocky hills offer a look at Boston, southern New Hampshire and Central Massachusetts.

Ranger Dan’s Nature Walks are family-friendly paced hikes offered every Sunday from 1 to 2:30 p.m. An advanced hike that is several miles long and guided by park rangers is offered periodically.

Bird watchers, fishers, cross country skiers and nature lovers show up during the coldest season, said Rossetti.

Special events, including a Tai Chi lesson with state Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus) and movie nights will be offered.

“They’ll show a movie on a Friday evening and we’ll give them popcorn,” Rossetti said. “They can sit by the fire and watch a movie. It gives the parents a little break.”

A naturalist will guide a specialized hike and lesson on animal tracks, he said.

“When my kids were younger, one of our favorite things was wandering into the woods and looking for tracks in the snow and trying to figure out what the tracks were,” said Jozsa.

In February, maple sugaring season will begin. Rossetti said the Friends are hoping for adequate funding to allow them to continue their regular programs, which includes field trips, tours and maple syrup tasting.

Bridget Turcotte can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

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