Weston's beautiful open spaces are shared by many different users – casual walkers, dogs, cyclists, horseback riders, and thriving wildlife too. Everyone should enjoy the great outdoors on our beloved 2,000 acres of nature and so we kindly ask all users to observe simple trail etiquette. As is usually the case with a shared resource, a spirit of courtesy toward other users will go a long way toward minimizing friction.
Carry In - Carry Out
Please don't be a litter bug. Trash barrels are not provided at most conservation sites. If you bring it in, you need to take it with you. This includes dog waste. Throwing anything into the woods or into a pond or stream only serves to cause serious damage to sensitive ecosystems.
If you see downed trees or branches obstructing the trails, please let us know, so we can take care of it. Try to include the closest trail marker. Email either westonforesttrail [at] gmail.com or conservation [at] westonma.gov.
Basic Shared-use Trail Etiquette
- Due to the continuing public health emergency of COVID-19 and its emerging variants, face masks must be worn outside on the trails and open space
- Keep your eyes and ears open
- Do not ride, cycle or tread on wet or muddy trails; this causes erosion and destroys sensitive flora
- Bicyclists yield to walkers, and everyone yields to horses
- When you are walking a dog and you see persons, dogs, or horses approaching, call your dog to your side and keep it under control until the persons, dogs, or horses pass. Dogs should never be allowed to approach another trail user
- Dogs must be leashed at the first sign of aggression or unruliness
- Be prepared to carry out what you carried in. Do not expect a trash barrel to be available
- Dog waste must be picked up and disposed of at home. It is an environmental and health hazard and must never be left on the trail or in the woods
- Do not allow your dog to chase wildlife
Currently, there is a temporary restriction on off-leash dog walking due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Under normal circumstances, dogs may be walked off-leash on all of Weston's conservation land except for the Case Estates, Legacy Trail, the abutting trails there, and the Mass Central Rail Trail (state-owned).
- Dogs must be leashed when entering and exiting conservation trails
- Dogs must be under voice control. This means that dogs, no matter how friendly, should never approach another trail user or dog.
- Walkers/Owners must have the dog within sight
- There are many horseback riders on Weston's trails. Leash your dog immediately and stand back. All users yield to horses
- Be aware that there is an abundance of wildlife in Weston's woods, including deer, turkeys, foxes, fishers, coyotes, and bobcats. Understand that your pet could chase and harm these wild animals in their living environment or your pets could be in danger. Learn more on the Wildlife and Safety web page
- Dog waste must be picked up and disposed of properly
- Always have pet waste bags with you
- Do not bury it in brush/leaves
- Do not flick it further into the woods or a stream/pond
- Do not feign to not notice your dog conducting its business
- Do not leave pet waste bags behind or throw them into a ditch, creek or tree
- Please do not expect a trash barrel to be provided, be prepared to take it home with you
Town of Weston's Dog Log
Town Officials want to hear about user experience on Weston's conservation land and trails, particularly as it pertains to dog-related interactions. This information will help us to better understand the level of compliance with Weston's Dog By-law, to see if any patterns emerge regarding dog-related interactions, and to determine how well our dog policies are working. The by-law represents the shared wisdom of the community. It is a social compact that enables all users to safely and confidently share our common land, and protects our treasured open space.
If you have a dog-related experience you wish to share -- whether good, bad, or neutral -- please describe it on our online form.
Winter Trail Use
Snow on the ground is a special time for Weston's trails. Enjoy this short season cross-country skiiing, snowshoeing, or on your fat bike but please be mindful of winter trail etiquette as our trails are shared-use and are not groomed. These do's and don'ts also apply to the Mass Central Rail Trail, which is not plowed.
- Do not ride, skate-ski, or walk over classic ski tracks, keep to the opposite side
- Snowshoers should travel in single file — creating only one snowshoe track
- Do not walk your dog on classic ski tracks
- Have your smart phone with you and GPS enabled, it can be disorienting out there and you can get lost. Have Weston's Trails Online ready before heading out
- If you are sinking more than an inch, use snowshoes or lower the tire pressure in your fat bike tire
- If you post-hole, please repair the divot
- Fat bikes yield to snowshoers and skiers, snowshoers yield to skiers
- Be respectful of all users - leave no trace, which most especially includes dog waste
- No motorized vehicles of any kind are allowed on any public trail or field
Bicycle riders should conform to the rules of the New England Mountain Bike Association. This association publishes a booklet entitled “Share the Trails,” which includes the following recommendations:
- Ride only on existing trails, don’t make new ones
- Respect private property
- Never ride when and where you will leave ruts, i.e. wet/muddy trails
- Carry your bike through streams
- Be careful not to widen trails by riding over vegetation alongside the trail
- Don’t skid, don’t brake slide — this can degrade hills by forming gullies that water funnels down, and can create ruts in sensitive trails
- Respect Nordic ski tracks by staying off of snow-covered cross-country ski trails
- Hikers and horseback riders have the right of way, so slow down, stop or pull to the side of the trail when encountering horses or persons on foot
Dog Waste in the Environment
The Leave No Trace for Outdoor Ethics organization conducted a study on “canine defecation events” on 45,000 acres of conservation land in Boulder, Colorado. In summary, dog waste left to decompose is really, really harmful.
All wildlife in our conservation lands forage for food in their home environment, which means they’re consuming resources and nutrients from the same ecosystem in which they live. After they’ve digested and absorbed that food, the same resources and nutrients are returned to the ecosystem via their scat. The system is basically a closed loop, with no net gain or loss in nutrients or resources. However, dogs eat pet food rich in nutrients designed to provide them with a complete diet. The dog expels the excess nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, through its waste. When that is left to decompose in our woods, the excess nutrients are released into the ecosystem.
It was found that those foreign or excessive nutrients can create unstable conditions for native plants and an inviting habitat for invasive plants. Invasives can choke out the native species. Dog waste does not present a closed loop but rather a cycle of damage. If those native plants disappear, then the potential for fewer food sources for the wildlife is presented in our woods.
Additional damage caused by dog waste that is not picked up is to our natural waterways. The decomposing dog waste also contains harmful pathogens. When it rains, these excess nutrients and pathogens runoff into nearby water sources, which then can cause harmful algae blooms in our water ways. Algae blooms make the water murky, green, smelly, and unusable for swimming, boating, or fishing. The algae blooms, as well as the pathogens, can make humans and animals sick.