hiking

Get Outside!

If you live in the Pioneer Valley, there is no question that winter will be more enjoyable if you adopt an "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" mentality. Winter is long, and cold. However, with some advance planning, it can be enjoyable to spend time outdoors in our beautiful part of the Northeast. The following article from this week's Daily Hampshire Gazette, provides a list of must-have equipment (so important!), with some great outdoor hikes and even places to enjoy food and drink after you've exerted yourself. While the equipment list may sound like you are packing to climb Mt. Everest, as a frequent winter hiker in these parts, I can assure you, the author knows of which he speaks! Heed his advice and enjoy!

Combatting cabin fever: A guide to outdoor treks and warmup spots for the fit and stir-crazy

For the Gazette
Published: 2/26/2019 8:14:56 AM

This winter has been a season of extremes. One day we have -10 degrees with blizzard conditions and the next it’s sunny and 55 degrees — or more. The so-called “wobbly vortex” is messing with our standard winter conditions and making outdoor pursuits more challenging than ever. But no matter your position on climate change or your secret inner desire to winter in the Caribbean, the Pioneer Valley is a beautiful place that is easy to enjoy year-round. And, we have the added benefit of being surrounded by a gastronomical and fermentation obsessed landscape of amazing pubs, breweries and restaurants to take the chill off afterward.

Generally said, just about any summer hiking spot can be a winter spot and the Valley offers easy and difficult treks up and down and on both sides of the river for both hardcore enthusiasts and newbies alike.

But before we venture out, we have to discuss three primary concerns: traction, safety and preparedness. This winter’s lack of a dependable snowpack presents some challenges no matter what your level of experience because when there is not enough snow for skis or snowshoes, and the weather is variable, it usually means ice.

Do not underestimate the power of ice. Ice can turn the road up Mt. Sugarloaf in Deerfield into the Khumbu icefalls of Mt. Everest in no time. And while I’ve seen people scoot up that hill in twenty minutes wearing sneakers, I’ve seen them take an hour to get down, often with falls. So, no traction = no go. If you want to avoid injury on even the most basic adventures in the woods, you must add yak trax, cat tracks or microspikes to your regular hiking boots..

On top of safety, there is more safety. The number one most basic rule: don’t hike or snowshoe alone. Two heads actually are better than one when ice, cold and wind are involved. Number two: make a check-in plan with a friend or relative who is not on the hike with you. Tell Aunt Sue that you will text her when you get back to your vehicle. Tell her where you are hiking, whom you are hiking with and even what you are wearing. If she does not hear from you by 6:00 p.m., she’ll know to call the authorities.

A few more good tips: Check out the entire day’s weather to avoid surprises. Start small and hike or snowshoe something you know. Experiment with new or unfamiliar equipment before you get two miles from your vehicle. Try things on. Adjust straps. Fall into the snow and get yourself up — a test that can be a real indicator of your preparedness. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to turn back if you are tired, unsure of the terrain or concerned you may be overdoing it. As the saying goes, the mountains and trails will be there waiting for your return. Just getting outside in winter means you have succeeded and any unfinished hike or peak becomes a goal for the future.

Gather your gear

The list below may seem like a lot of stuff, but keep in mind that winter requires a few extra precautions because daylight is short, fewer people are outdoors, hikes take longer and the weather can change suddenly. Note: Water bottles can freeze, so use lukewarm water and cover your bottles with a wool sock. Cell phone batteries also die faster; store your phone inside an old glove deeper inside your pack. Before you head out, try your best to pull together the following:

Warm, layered and breathable clothing — preferably a bright outer layer (required)

Insulated boots (required)

Ski/trekking poles (recommended)

Snowshoes, cross-country or backwoods skis (required in deep snow situations)

Cat tracks (small teeth), yak trax (bigger teeth), microspikes (even bigger teeth) and crampons (giant teeth) (best in light snow/ice situations)

A decent day-use backpack with basic medical supplies (required)

Headgear and goggles (required)

Water (see note above), headlamp, snacks, a detailed plan and a map (required)

While it goes without saying that being outside usually involves the cold, one of the biggest challenges is actually overheating and managing trapped moisture from sweat. That combination can lead to hypothermia and hypothermia can lead to, well, bad things.

When dressing for strenuous winter exercise, stick with warm, layered and breathable gear. No cotton. Cotton loses all of its warming value with the slightest bit of moisture. Polypropylene long underwear and layered wool are best. Jackets that can be peeled off and stored in a pack are good, too. For lack of a better way to think about it, what would you wear and bring if you had to run a mile, do one hundred pushups and then sit in a snowbank overnight by yourself? It could happen.

OK, now for the fun stuff. Let’s get outside with three great treks. Each of these can be skied, hiked in microspikes or on snowshoes, it all depends on the weather, snow depth and what gear you possess.

City Special: Whiting Street Reservoir & Mt. Tom Ski Area in Holyoke

Getting there: Take Rte. 5 to Mountain Park Road and head up the hill to the end of the road. There’s a small parking area at the top that is generally plowed. To the south, a gate leads down a road a bit and then connects to the reservoir. To the north, another gated road wraps around the park and then up a steep hill to the Mt. Tom base area. The Mountain Park concert area is fenced off in the middle. Both roads lead to a bunch of options.

Option #1: (Reservoir) Head through the gate to the south and connect to a trek around the reservoir. You’ll enjoy a mostly flat 3.8 mile loop that offers great views of Mt. Tom, lots of light with a few streams and a glimpse or two of wildlife. This is a moderate effort taking approximately 2 hours if spiking or snowshoeing.

Option #2: (Reservoir + Loop) Take the road to the north. It’s approximately 1 mile to the base area (mostly uphill). After you crest the hill (great views) and head downwards, note an industrial dumpster (yes) on the left. Behind i is the path that connects to the reservoir. After poking around the base area, head back and then down the short but steep trail. Take a left and you can make it a 2 mile loop along part of the reservoir by taking the left at the pump house and following the road back to the parking area. This is slightly more strenuous and takes about an hour and a half. Note: if you take a right, it’s most of Option #1 above.

Option #3: (Reservoir + Ski Trails) This was my choice using snowshoes on a recent snowy day. I reversed Option #2 and made it to the base quickly and then headed straight up the ski trails. It’s a pretty strenuous climb of approximately 750 vertical feet but well worth it. You’ll see the old lifts and shacks and when you take a break and turn around, you’ll see the Holyoke Range to the north, Hadley across the river, Holyoke in the foreground and Springfield to the south. It’s pretty strenuous overall. Allow 2 hours depending on how far up the hill you go.

After your adventure, head over Rte. 141 to warm up at the Daily Operation in Easthampton with some replenishing made-to-order food (and perhaps a local beer.) Dave Schrier, Jessica Pollard and Dave Clegg recently decamped from the Alvah Stone up in Montague to open this spot, and their funky, filling, casual and creative Asian-influenced food never disappoints. My favorites include the blackened fish sandwich, cheesy fries, Sichuan cabbage salad and Jessica’s black bottom maple pie. As for beers, $3 gets you a can of Genny Cream Ale and $5 gets you the brews from nearby Fort Hill Brewery.

360 Degree Views: Mt. Toby Telephone Trail/ Firetower in Montague

Getting there: Take Rte. 116 to Rte. 47 North in Sunderland. Wind your way along and then turn onto Reservation Road. The parking area is about a ½ mile up on the right. If there are no maps available or you forgot yours, take a picture of the large map on the information sign, better to have at least that as a reference when you head out. Just a heads up: It’s a pretty popular spot on the weekends, especially if the temperatures are warm. Much like Mt. Tom, there are a bunch of options depending on your time, fitness and appetite. Skiers should probably consider Tower Road out and back vs. the Telephone Trail.

Unsure of what the recent warm ups and re-freezes would bring, my wife and I popped on the microspikes, brought trekking poles and carried crampons in our packs. The microspikes were the right call. From the parking area, take the Tower Road fire road that heads gently south into the forest. Ignore the Hemlock Trail on your first visit. Stay on Tower until you reach the Telephone Trail marked with blue blazes (at about ¾ mile). Take a right and begin heading upwards. You’ll come to a junction with the Upper Link Trail after another ½ mile. If you’re tired, head across the Link and reconnect with Tower Road for an easier way to the top. If you like a challenge, stay to the right. Most of the 900-foot vertical gain now stacks up to a frozen stream staircase for about .4 miles to the top. Climb the fire tower on a sunny clear day for a 360-degree view and you can see the ski areas in Vermont, the Berkshires and Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire — in addition to the entire Valley. Head back down the same way or for an easier (but longer) loop, head down the Tower Road and take a left at the Link or stay on Tower. (Telephone Trail up and back is strenuous and slippery, about 2 hours. Looping is a little easier, but adds time.)

After your hike, continue up Rte. 47 for a couple more miles to the Montague Bookmill. The Lady Killigrew Café will get some replenishing carbs back in your body fast. A simple but hearty menu provides perfect options for something warm or cold that will get your body back in line. They also have four great local beers on tap. I opted for a pint and a grilled basil, tomato and mozzarella sandwich with a nice side salad. (I strongly suggest their delicious cupcakes.)

Quick Historical Loop: Bullitt Reservation in Ashfield and Conway

Getting there: The Bullitt Reservation is a 3000-acre Trustees of Reservations property accessible from Bullitt Road in Ashfield. Take Rte. 116 up from Rte. 91 or from Williamsburg Road. (The Poland Road approach is not plowed in the winter.) William Bullitt was the first ambassador to the Soviet Union and the family’s summer home and farm has been preserved for our benefit.

This property has a great history, sublime views and a couple of nice options for a snowshoe, ski or hike. Parking is available at the barn and homestead and the trail entrance is located back up Bullitt Road. The primary trail here is the “Pebble” trail, a 1-mile loop hike that gains some elevation on its way to the “Pebble,” a huge erratic boulder that appears wedged between supporting trees. It’s a fun feature for the kids if you’re with the family. The loop is not stressful, but if you are interested in doing more, the Three Bridges Trail to Chapel Brook is 4 miles round-trip and will definitely fill your afternoon. When I went in early February, four inches of fresh snow had blanketed an icy crust beneath, skiers had made their way to the Chapel Brook cutoff and a few other hearty snowshoers had done the Pebble. Short on time and daylight, the Pebble was a perfect 45 minute loop. Be sure to print a copy of the map from the Trustees website before you head out.

After your hike, make sure you warm up the car a bit because the options are a little dispersed. I was craving pizza, so I opted to double back and head to Magpie Woodfired Pizza in Greenfield for an amazing grilled Caesar salad and a tasty handcrafted pie. Best of all? The atmosphere is warm and inviting so you won’t look out of place with a little “hat head” or in ski pants.

 
 
Patrick Kandianis is a serial entrepreneur and CEO of the education finance startup Pay4Education. An avid snowboarder, hiker, mountain biker and fly-fisherman, his freelance work has appeared at REI.com, in Coastal Angler and in Blue Magazine. He lives in Holyoke with his wife and two dogs. Drop him a line at patrick@pay4.education

Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk

As a relatively new rescue-dog owner, I can personally attest to the mental and physical health benefits of walking and hiking. There is not a season, or a day that goes by, wherein I don't have to take my energetic dog on a lengthy walk or hike. Since we adopted her, nearly 4 years ago, I have discovered numerous walking and hiking areas in the Pioneer Valley. I enjoy them all immensely, for various reasons. And, while I admit that there are days when I dread the walk - once I am out, moving my body, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the beautiful scenery of the Northampton area- the dread washes away and is replaced with gratitude.

Check out this recent article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette which highlights some local hiking areas to enjoy this summer (spring, fall and winter as well!)

Five serene treks that can promote physical and mental well-being

  • A walking path at Atkins Reservoir in Amherst Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • By ANDY CASTILLO
    @AndyCCastillo

Monday, August 06, 2018

Ahead in a clearing lies a pine tree. Sunlight, filtering down through a leafy canopy illuminates its bare branches. There’s nothing to be heard but the gentleness of wind and the sweet trill of birdsong, which echos through towering oak trunks and across the many vernal pools scattered throughout Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary.

I’ve walked through these woods many times, having grown up in Northampton near the Big Y shopping plaza on King Street. Not far away, a great blue heron stalks cautiously forward into a tributary of the Mill River, startling a deer, which raises its head from grazing in the reeds. Peace reigns over the clearing for a little while. But it doesn’t last.

It’s broken, suddenly, by two squirrels. They leap, one after the other, down from a tree and into dry leaves that outline a narrow path ahead of me, which winds on for four miles through the nature preserve’s 724 acres, which is spread across Northampton and Easthampton.

While familiar, the scene never gets old. And, even though I’ve watched Hampshire County’s commercial industry and its neighborhoods expand over the last few decades, I still find it easy to escape into the quietness of nature, for my physical and mental health, on readily accessible trails throughout the region.

Below are a few of my favorites, close to my hometown, where I still escape to for a peaceful walk.

 

Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, Easthampton

The trails at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, maintained by the Massachusetts Audubon Society, are open to the public from dawn until dusk. The preserve’s terrain is diverse, ranging from forest, to grasslands, to wetlands, and the walking paths aren’t too strenuous. Native flora is prevalent along the trails, as is wildlife, which can be viewed from a tower overlooking the Mill River.

A variety of trails, which include an 850-foot loop over crushed stone with a guide rope along the side, are accessible from a parking area at 127 Combs Road in Easthampton. Next to the parking area, there’s a nature center where events are held throughout the year. Audio tours that coincide with the trails can be listened to by calling 413-272-0006. Admission is $4 for adults and $3 for children and seniors. Members are free.

Directions: Arcadia Wildlife Sactuary is at 127 Combs Road, Easthampton. From Route 10, turn onto Lovefield Street, which isn’t far from Valley Recycling, take a left onto Clapp Street, another left onto Old Springfield Road, and an immediate left onto Combs Road. From East Street, turn onto Fort Hill Road, pass Fort Hill Brewery, take a right onto Old Springfield Road, and an immediate left onto Combs Road.

 

Fitzgerald Lake Conservation Area, Northampton

The dock at Fitzgerald Lake, which is about a two- minute walk from a parking area at North Farms Road in Northampton, provides a quick respite from the busyness of life. Even though it’s not far from a few of the Pioneer Valley’s main thoroughfares, with Route 9 on one side and Route 5 on the other, while standing at the end of the dock surrounded by reeds, it feels as though you’re miles from civilization.

From the dock, a two-mile trail leads around the lake to a dam on the other side, and from there, another mile or so of trail connects to a second parking area at the former Moose Lodge off of Cooke Avenue. The lake itself is artificial, and shallow, created when the dam was made in the 1960s. Growing up, jogging to the dam from the Moose Lodge, or around the lake from North Farms Road to Cook Avenue, were favorite running and mountain biking routes of mine. The trail system, which includes a shorter loop that takes about 10 to 15 minutes to walk near the dock, can also be accessed from Marian Street and Coles Meadow Road. Trails are mostly protected from the sun by forest canopy and traverse rocky sections and cross small sections of grassland and wind through the woods that surround the lake.

Wildlife can be seen from various lookout points along the way, including a wildlife observation blind, and sections of the trail pass close by large swamps. The conservation area is maintained by the Broad Brook Coalition, a nonprofit organization, and the Northampton Conservation Commission.

More information on walking the trails, which are free and open to the public, can be found at www.broadbrookcoalition.org.

Directions:61 North Farms Road, Northampton. The North Farms Road access point has gravel-lot parking, and features an accessible paved path, bridge and boardwalk out to the dock. 196 Cooke Avenue (former Moose Lodge, up behind the Northampton Walmart), features an entry point to the trails and street parking on the right side of an unpaved lot. Marian Street: Entrance and street parking. Coles Meadow Road: Entrance and street parking.

Robert Frost Trail, Amherst

While there are many sections of the Robert Frost Trail, which stretches 47 miles from South Hadley to Wendell, my favorite section can be found just off of Cushman Road in Amherst next to the Atkins Reservoir. Across from the trailhead is a short walking path that leads along the reservoir’s edge, which is another beautiful place for a peaceful and short walk.

The natural colors along the trail are vivid and change with each season. In the spring, aquatic plants pop from the blue water in vibrant yellow tones.

Summertime brings a Jurassic torrent of green that’s tempered come fall by the rustic orange grace of autumn. And in the winter, the redness of dead leaves lining narrow streams, bubbling from the adjacent Adams Brook, contrasts with the whiteness of untouched snow.

The trail is aptly named in honor of Frost, the great American poet, as it highlights the simple beauty of New England’s woods. I often escape here, alone, to find inspiration in nature. A few other sections of the Robert Frost Trail that I particularly appreciate include one that leads around Puffers Pond, and another in Sunderland at the Mount Toby State Forest near Cranberry Pond, which has a beautiful trail system, albeit a little challenging, of its own.

Directions: Area of 60 Cushman Road, Amherst. The entrance to the Robert Frost Trail is on the right, across from the Atkins Reservoir, and there’s a narrow pull-off for parking nearby. From Bridge Street, which passes by Cushman Common and Cushman Market and Cafe and turns into East Leverett Road, turn right onto Market Hill Road. From there, drive straight about a mile and a half, continuing on after the street turns into Cushman Road, to the pull-off.

The Arthur F. Kinney Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies, Amherst

Mowed paths crisscross 28 sprawling acres at the Arthur F. Kinney Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. From a house built to look like a Renaissance cottage, home to the center, the paths sweep down a grassy hill filled with native flora and birds, which dive after crickets and other insects. At the top, next to a period era garden, a few of the trails lead into a wooded section.

It’s a beautiful place for an evening walk around sunset because of the expansive view from the top, and because many of the walking paths are completely exposed to the sun. The trails are open to the public all the time, but the center, at 650 East Pleasant St., Amherst, is only open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. At closing time, a gate at Pleasant Street is locked, and any cars still in the parking lot must call campus police to get out. Elsewhere, cars can also park on nearby side streets.

Directions:650 East Pleasant St., Amherst, not far from the North Amherst Fire Station and the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s main campus. The center has a gravel lot, which closes at 5 p.m., and there’s additional parking at nearby streets such as Sherman Lane, which is across the road. 

Fort River Birding and Nature Trail, Hadley

A one-mile-long pathway, carved into the landscape, leads through diverse habitats, ranging from grasslands to wetlands and forest, at the Fort River Birding and Nature Trail in Hadley, which is in the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. The path, which was completed a few years ago, is mostly gravel, graded to accommodate wheelchairs, and traverses over vernal pools and woodland areas that would otherwise be inaccessible.

The pathway itself is beautiful — sometimes it’s elevated on stilts — carefully designed to highlight quintessential elements of Connecticut River’s watershed, such as tributaries, vernal pools, and the surrounding forest. At a few different points along the way there are shaded gazebos and platforms with seating areas that overlook particularly beautiful areas for birdwatching.

It’s the perfect place for a morning or afternoon walk, although it can be hot at times because some sections of trail aren’t covered. Come evening, especially in the spring and summer months, mosquitos are out in force.

Directions: 63 Moody Bridge Road, Hadley. From South Maple Street, which is one of the back roads to the Hampshire Mall from Northampton, turn onto Moody Bridge Road at the four-way stop sign. The nature trail is at the end of a dirt turn-off on the right, as indicated by a small sign.

Andy Castillo can be reached at acastillo@gazettenet.com.

New Listing in Chesterfield MA - 206 Bryant Street!

Contemporary home on 17.22 bucolic acres in the heart of beautiful Chesterfield MA. This 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath has all the bells and whistles! Open concept floor plan on first floor with large cook's kitchen, wood stove, dining room, family room and TV room, shaded porch and sunny deck, tiled mudroom and office/guest room across from first floor powder room. Second floor is comprised of a gracious master suite, with a large walk-in closet, 2 additional bedrooms and addtional full bath/laundry room. Walk out basement is ready to be finished, or can be used as-is. There is also a large walk up attic with ample storage space. In the spacious yard, you will find a large storage shed, fire pit, stone walls and plenty of wildlife. 12 minutes to Williamsburg, 20 to Florence, 26 to Northampton center.

Enjoy camping, hiking, skiing, fishing, horseback riding, berry-picking, bird watching and all that Chesterfield and the hill towns have to offer - as well as an abundance of cultural events and natural beauty in the nearby Berkshires. This property is approved for horses, and would be great for gardening. With an abundance of sunlight, it would likely be a great candidate for solar power too!

206 Bryant Road in Chesterfield. Offered at $399,000. Call Julie Starr to set up your private showing, or attend the open house this Saturday, May 5th from 11-1 pm.

View from the top of the driveway

Side of the house

Cook's kitchen

Wood-burning stove in living room

TV room

Master bedroom

Second bedroom

Third bedroom

 

 

 

Big Changes Afoot at the Dog Park in Northampton!

It's a sad turn of events for the thousands of Northampton dog owners who rely on the "dog park" as an open space to their dogs to run and play. The following article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette suggests that if the new, more stringent plan for the Smith Farm Fields is approved by the state, dog owners would be required to keep their dogs on a leash at all times while using the property for recreational purposes.

As a Northampton citizen who lives near the "dog park" and uses it almost daily to get my dog the exercise she needs, I am disheartened by this news. Luckily, we live in the beautiful Pioneer Valley, where there are numerous other conservation areas with lovely hikes to enjoy. Still, the convenience of having this wonderful resource in the heart of our city has been such a plus. As any dog owner with an energetic, but friendly dog, can tell you -- an on leash walk just doesn't compare to being able to run free and play with other dogs. The joy they experience is infectious, and in turn brings joy to those of us who consider them a part of our families. It has helped me broaden my community as well.

Smith School trustees back leashed dogs at ‘dog park’

By STEPHANIE MURRAY
StephMurr_Jour

Daily Hampshire Gazette

NORTHAMPTON — Dog owners visiting Smith Farm Fields, popularly referred to as the “dog park,” would be required to keep their pets on leashes if the state approves the recommendation by the Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School board of trustees.


Tuesday evening’s vote prompted some 30 people, many of whom spoke in favor of allowing dogs to continue roaming freely, to leave the meeting abruptly.

A revised land-use plan, which includes the policy requiring dogs to remain leashed, now goes to the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture, the agency that regulates the use of the property.

The 282-acre wooded property off Burts Pit Road is owned by the state, leased by the city and run by the school. For years, people have used it for activities currently not permitted under the state law governing the land, including dog walking.

A previous plan put forth by the board of trustees would have allowed “passive recreation,” including off-leash dog walking, to continue, according to Superintendent Jeffrey Peterson.

“It allowed virtually everything to happen,” Peterson said. “It was denied by the state” in October 2015 because it lacked structure.

The board of trustees presented its new, stricter plan Tuesday night.

According to Chairman Michael T. Cahillane, the land-use plan was drafted with the best interests of the school in mind, but it was not meant to upset community members who use the land for recreational purposes.

“This is not cast in stone, but we have to start somewhere,” said Cahillane, “Tonight is the start of a process.”

Changes in policy
The new plan states that organized groups holding events on the grounds, such as the Smith College cross country team, must submit a request form as they do when using other school facilities.

A no-trespassing order will be established to give the school “recourse” if an individual maintains unacceptable behavior, the plan states.

Dogs must be leashed and “under full control of their owner,” according to the plan. The plan predicts “recurring dog issues” will be reduced by leashes. The article was amended to add that dog owners must remove all dog waste from the grounds.

“Most dog owners still allow their animals to run off leash and although some owners have organized a committee to help clean up after their animals, clearly most owners do not,” the plan states.

Signs will be maintained throughout the property to educate the public on the school’s policies, and the school will maintain “best management practices” to show the public the primary purpose of the land is to educate students.

“In the past Smith Vocational had admittedly reduced its farming activity which gave large sections of the property the (appearance) that it had been abandoned,” the plan states. “SVAHS is now again managing the entire property.”

The plan also gives the school the authority to close the parking lot in “emergency situations” after consulting with the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture, the mayor’s office and the Northampton Police Department.

An article regarding police enforcement was removed from the plan at the suggestion of Mayor David J. Narkewicz. He explained the suggested “weekly drive through” by Northampton Police and the city’s animal control department was “not legally feasible” because police cannot enforce school policies.

Police can, however, intervene in the event of a dog bite, a lost dog, or trespassing.

Community divided
The meeting was attended by approximately 50 people. About a dozen community members spoke for and against allowing dogs to roam off-leash at Smith Farm Fields.

John Schieffelin, 79, told the audience that walking his dog Dulce without a leash keeps them both healthy and happy. They visit the park six or seven days a week, he said, and Dulce “has a ball” playing with fellow dogs.

“We have this woodsy, open, natural place … This is a jewel in our city,” Schieffelin said.

Other speakers echoed Schieffelin, saying walking a dog off-leash is good exercise because the dogs do not “stop and sniff” as frequently and dogs can socialize more naturally without a leash. Many added that visiting the property regularly has fostered friendships among fellow dog owners and community members.

But free-roaming dogs pose a problem for others, such as Sue Grant, who runs a weekly race at Smith Farm Fields on Tuesday evenings.

“Fewer and fewer people are courageous enough to run on their own,” Grant said.

According to Grant, dogs jump on runners and discourage them from using the park. She said a leash law should be posted and enforced to keep dogs under control.