MOUNT DESERT — There is a difference between a dog park and a place for human enjoyment where well-behaved dogs are allowed off leash.
Little Long Pond in Seal Harbor is the latter. But more and more people seem to think it’s the former. And that’s causing problems for the Land and Garden Preserve, which owns and maintains the pond and the surrounding fields, forests, hiking trails and carriage roads.
The Preserve staff said they have received several complains about aggressive dogs in recent months. Twice this summer, visitors reported being bitten by dogs.
“We’ve had people call us and say they were accosted by a dog, the dog jumped all over them and the owner didn’t care,” said Karthyn Strand, the Preserve’s development and communications director.
“We will call people whose dogs we get complaints about, if we get their [identifying] information, and tell them they’re not welcome.”
She said that even if dogs are off leash they must be completely under the owner’s control.
While aggressive behavior is serious, it is far less common than some other dog-related problems at Little Long Pond.
“We’ve got a lot of problems with people not picking up their bags of dog poop,” Strand said.
Apparently, more than a few people go to the trouble of picking up the poop, but then they toss the bags just off the carriage roads or into the woods.
“Oh, yeah, we find that all the time,” said Tate Bushell, the Preserve’s natural lands director. “We’re constantly working on the margins of the carriage roads, either fixing the culverts or cleaning out vegetation and working on drainage, and we’re constantly finding those bags.”
And, of course, some dog owners simply leave the poop where their dogs deposit it.
Another challenge for the Preserve staff and volunteers, Bushell said, is erosion of the banks of the pond caused by dogs running in and out of the water.
“In the past couple of years, we’ve had to put down retaining walls, big granite blocks,” he said. “That does the job, but it takes a lot of time to maintain it.”
Every year brings more and more people, including people with dogs, to Little Long Pond.
“Now, if you Google ‘dog park MDI,’ this is the place that pops up first,” Bushell said. “And all the testimony online is that it is the best place to bring your dog.
“Most of the dogs are fine; most of the people are fine. But because there is such a high use, even if each dog has only a slight negative impact on the pond or the forest, there’s a big impact overall.”
Strand said the Preserve hopes the owners of well-behaved, well-controlled dogs will encourage others to act responsibly.
“We’re hoping people will speak up if they see somebody toss a bag into the woods or if they see someone’s dog run off and act aggressively.”
The bottom line, she said, is this: “It’s not a dog park. It’s a preserve. Being able to take your dog there off leash is a privilege.”