Learn More About Recent Policy Changes at Robinson Woods - Cape Elizabeth Land Trust


Learn More About Recent Policy Changes at Robinson Woods


Robinson Woods Dog Policy Overview

Prior to implementing a leash policy on December 1, 2014 mandating dogs to be leashed after 9am daily CELT spoke with a number of known long-time dog walkers at the property.  Also, almost all of CELT’s Board members are also dog owners who enjoy off leash walks in Robinson Woods who are familiar with the property and the use it receives.  Prior to our decision, CELT spoke with  residents in support of stricter regulations as well as those who felt no changes were necessary.  Ultimately after several months of deliberation CELT’s board voted unanimously that the growing safety concerns and cumulative impacts of off-leash dogs warranted limited off-leash hours.

Important Facts:

  • Robinson Woods is primarily a conservation property that allows for limited recreational use compatible with the protection of important natural habitats.
  • CELT and its Board are obligated to manage Robinson Woods consistent with specific conservation and public benefit management goals.
  • These recent incidents are indicative of a growing concern regarding the cumulative impact of unleashed dogs. In addition to the clear safety concerns unleashed dogs also regularly chase and harass wildlife at the property, and many dog owners refuse to clean up after their dogs or remove their waste from the property.
  • Many people who are complaining about the policy are thinking only about their own use of Robinson Woods and how the policy affects them.
  • Some dog walkers fail to appreciate how destructive to the environment, and how unpleasant to visitors the dog waste is. This year’s 4th grade fall walk was ruined by the amount of dog waste stepped in by the students.
  • We also ask dog owners to look at Robinson Woods from the perspective of someone else, a bird watcher who is trying to quietly observe a bird, a parent introducing a two year old to walking in the woods, or the perspective of someone who feels they have literally been chased off the property.
  • Robinson Woods is a beautiful conservation property preserved for the enjoyment of all.



How many ‘incidents’ were there? Why are we being punished because of a few irresponsible owners?

At this point we know of at least five people were bitten or attacked by three or more different dogs over the past few months. During this time we also received several reports of dogs being attacked by aggressive dogs.  We are also learning of a growing number of residents who no longer visit the property because of repeatedly feeling intimidated by unleashed dogs.

Why Only Until 9AM, Why No Afternoon Hours?

We are allowing off-leash hours in the morning so that people can continue to enjoy off-leash walks. We don’t want children or adults to be attacked or harassed by dogs, or this conservation property to be covered in dog waste, but those end at 9 so others can also enjoy the woods.  We hope dog owners will be more responsible about cleaning up dog waste at all times.

What time do off-leash hours start and end?

Sunrise until 9am.

What are some of the ‘other concerns’ related to off-leash dogs that I have heard about?

The two other contributing factors to CELT’s recent policy changes are dog waste and the impact off-leash dogs have on wildlife and ecology.   The dog waste problem at Robinson Woods has become a big problem. Not only is dog waste unsightly it is also a health concern. Dog waste contributes to giardia in both humans and wildlife. The other factor is that off-leash dogs chase wildlife and disturb habitat. Dogs swimming in the vernal pools disrupts developing egg masses and dogs chasing wildlife is a common occurance and contrary to our interest in protecting the exceptional ecological resources at the property.

Why are leash hours in effect during the winter if they aren’t in effect at the beaches?

Every public beach in Cape Elizabeth requires dogs to be on leash at all times from October 1 to March 30 and dogs are not allowed on the beaches from April 1 to September 1.   Beaches are also generally more conducive to in-sight and under voice control than Robinson Woods.

Why is the new Canter Way Trail mandating leashes at all times?

The 1,000’ of new trails connecting the Methodist Church property to the Robinson Woods II property came to CELT as a public access easement donated by Kirk Pond and Nancy St. John Pond who own the property. One of the conditions attached to the gift was that dogs need to be leashed at all times.   Securing deeded public access for this critical cross-town trail connection has been a top priority for CELT and the town and this restriction was deemed to be an acceptable limitation considering that we received the access as a donation. It is important to note that this gift of access is revocable by the donors if the leash requirements are not respected.

Why didn’t CELT allow for public comment before making its decision? (“I’ve been a long-time donor to CELT and nobody contacted me.”)

CELT spoke with some– though clearly not all –regular users of the property to gain a better understanding of the scope of the problem. While we value the input of all of our friends and supporters who use the property the number and severity of the incidents compelled us to act accordingly. Public comment would not have changed the circumstances that led to our decision.

What is CELT going to do if I don’t leash my dog/How is this going to be enforced?

We hope those who love Robinson Woods for its natural beauty and unique ecosystems will both adhere to the new policy, and create a culture of cooperation and preservation at the property.

“I’ve walked in RW for years and never had a problem. How many people complained about dogs?”

We know of five incidents where people were bitten or attacked in the past few months, as this issue has become more public we are hearing of additional stories. It is also important to remember that dog owners and non-dog owners (especially those with small children) have very different tolerance levels for being approached by an unknown and unleashed dog without an owner within sight

People don’t always realize that their dog can be perceived as a nuisance (jumping on others, running up to a person in fun and inadvertently scaring the person) or a threat, but many people no longer use Robinson Woods because of the number of dogs.

Dog waste is found throughout the woods.  Teachers, children and volunteers stepped in dog waste during our fall education programs, largely ruining the objective of the program.  Bags of dog poop are found throughout the woods; dog waste is on or near all the trails.



Additional resources related to CELT’s management of Robinson Woods are provided below:

Robinson Woods Site Summary

Robinson Woods Trail Map

Robinson Woods Conservation Easement

Robinson Woods II Conservation Easement

Robinson Woods II Public Access Easement

Canter Lane Trail Easement



« Back to News

Sign up for our Newsletter

Translate »