'No dogs allowed' at nature preserve has shoreline residents upset

Dogs are no longer welcome at the Turtle Creek nature preserve that spans a property in Old Saybrook and Essex. (WFSB)

There’s controversy with the conservancy.

Dogs are no longer welcome at the Turtle Creek nature preserve that spans a property in Old Saybrook and Essex.

It’s about a 96-acre parcel that was established back in the 1970’s as a gift by the wife of the former Connecticut Gov. Chester Bowles Sr.

Dog walkers like Mike Hutner commonly come to Turtle Creek nature preserve to enjoy its natural beauty.

“The community of so many dog walkers who have the benefits of learning more about nature as they are walking their dogs,” Hutner said.

Winding trails take you through thick trees and you find yourself on a little beach in a cove looking at swans, boats in a marina, and a picturesque New England church on the horizon.

“It’s a shame. I think it was nice for the neighborhood and the town of Old Saybrook. They used to have someplace to take their dogs to run freely,” said Mary Hellsund, of Old Saybrook.

At the start of this week, a big sign reading “no dogs” was put in the ground where people park entering the preserve.

“Well now I’m just sort of walking the neighborhood and keeping the dog on a leash the whole time,” Hellsund said.

The nature conservancy owns and manages the land.

It posted on its website that the Turtle Creek Preserve would be formally closed to dog use, leash or unleashed, because of overuse and negative impacts on the landscape.

“I think that people should have their dogs on a leash in there. But they’re not saying people should have their dogs on a leash they’re just saying no dogs which I think is kind of crazy. Which it’s a beautiful place to walk,” said Sandy Haas, of Old Saybrook.

The Nature Conservancy Director of Land Management, David Gumbart, did not return calls or emails from Channel 3, but had a statement online that read in part “typically, the conservancy does not allow pets on preserves, and restricting access at Turtle Creek will support the preserve’s natural systems and functions.”

The conservancy also gave a list of other nearby properties that would be accommodating to pets. But people have been bringing their dogs to Turtle Creek for a long time.

“I’ve brought all my dogs here, my parents who have died brought their dogs here. It’s like an institution. In their efforts to protect nature they are interfering with the joy and recreation of people, real people, human beings and their dogs,” said Jennifer Morgan, of Old Lyme.

The debate has been going on a long time.

Hutner says he believes it has more to do with trying to cut down on traffic for immediate neighbors, and while boulders were being considered to block the parking area, Hutner says that is no longer being done.

“So, I’m hoping that the Nature Conservancy, which any public organization should be doing is just talking to the people who are their constituents, and in this case, it’s the dog walkers,” Hutner said.

The dog walkers have been very vocal about what they think of this new signage and no dogs in the nature preserve.

That’s why they think there should be more talks with the nature conservancy.

Copyright 2017 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


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