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Correspondent

GROTON — Heavy canine traffic has prompted the New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF), owners of over 200 acres of open land along Route 225, to conduct limited restoration work along Groton Place and Sabine Woods, where the properties are bounded by the Nashua River.

“The volume of dogs has grown over the years,” property manager Richard Muehlke told members of the Conservation Commission at a public hearing.

While NEFF’s Groton Place consists of 54 acres of open land, its Sabine Woods property has 146 acres.

According to Muehlke, after years of residents taking their pet dogs for walks to the river, serious erosion problems have developed along a part of the steep bank sloping down to the water.

As a result, the property owners have decided that the river bank must be reseeded, in the hope that plants can help hold it together.

Muehlke said that in addition to the reseeding of the river bank, the owners would like to place a fence at the top to discourage dog owners from allowing their pets from using it and possibly redirecting them elsewhere.

Although not intended as a “dog park,” the owners do not wish to prohibit residents from bringing their pets when walking the two properties; for that reason, Muehlke said, trash barrels would also be placed at strategic spots as well as a station equipped with a “mitt” dispenser for use by owners to pick up after their dogs.

“We hope to encourage dog owners to pick up their dog waste,” said Muehlke of the dispenser.

Other work at the site listed by Muehlke included the removal of accumulated mud from the bottom of a stairway leading down to the water, the clearing out of an existing culvert, and possible repair to a stone wall.

Not unfriendly to the work plans, commissioners acknowledged that the amount of animal traffic along the river bank was heavy, after they had walked the site.

“The number of dogs coming in there is significant,” Commission Chairman Marshall Giguere said. He was concerned that a suggestion by Muehlke to direct dog owners to another spot along the river would only be “moving the problem around.”

“Maybe it would be better to find a way to control the traffic, instead,” Giguere mused.

“Groton Place has certainly proven to be a popular place for dogs,” admitted Commissioner Craig Auman, who was concerned about the erosion problem. “I doubt if Mother Nature can recover by herself.”

Auman suggested that Muehlke consider using matting to better hold the river bank together, while seeding would allow grass to grow up from beneath it. Together, the two would eventually form a sturdier surface for dogs scrambling to get back up the steep bank.

“Obviously, the steeper the bank, the harder it is for a dog to get back up again,” Muehlke agreed.

“I’m nervous about the idea of trying to move the activity somewhere else,” Commissioner Wayne Addy said, suggesting instead that owners be directed to have their dogs use an existing stairway leading down to the water. “I’m really not encouraged to see (the traffic) moved anywhere else.”

In the end, commissioners decided that although the owners of the property need not submit a formal Notice of Intent (NOI) for the suggested improvement, they should have Muehlke report back next June to let members know how the river bank reseeding effort has gone.

In the meantime, the owners would be permitted to erect a temporary fence to keep dogs off the reclamation area but that no messages be posted directing dog owners to other places where they could let their pets enter the water.