GROTON — When is the dog park not a dog park?
Groton Place, called the Groton Dog Park by many in the know, is not really a dog park. It is a forest owned and managed by the New England Forestry Foundation.
The use of the 52-acre property and the adjoining 146-acre Sabine Woods by the canine crew is A-OK with NEFF. “All of our forests are open to public recreation,” said Charlie Reinertsen, communications associate. “We love having all the activity in Groton Place.”
All of their properties are dog-friendly, but the welcome comes with a request. “We rely on visitors to steward our properties,” he said.
On a recent winter afternoon, a visiting family took the request to heart.
It took a few tries, but Roan DeMeis persisted in his task of removing a mutt mitt from the dog waste station by the entry. After six-month old Dakota did her business in the field, the boy shuffled through knee-deep snow in search of the treasure under the careful eye of his mother Miqelle.
The black lab/blue tick hound paid no attention. She was busy keeping an eye out for friends.
Her wait was soon over. She and Gunner, an eight-month-old shepherd mix circled first each other, and then their people. Gunner’s owner, Kira Shaikh, watched proudly.
Forward motion stopped while folks chatted and dogs cavorted. Next came Tucker a not quite 10-year-old bichon/Pomeranian cross. His lack of one hip joint didn’t stop the little guy from joining in.
The owners continued chatting, drawing Doug Eames, Tucker’s dad, into the conversation.
Goldenoodle Willow, 2, passed through without joining in beyond a friendly glance.
The Bullwinkles, the owner Sarah and her clumber spaniels Natty, Rocky and Moo turned up. Soon Toby Wolf and 4-year-old border collie mix Tessa joined the scrum.
Talk turned to walking at Groton Place. All were frequent visitors.
NEFF owns other properties in Groton and the walkers have tried them. Groton Woods is the paws-down favorite.
The foundation has two main parts to its mission, Reinertsen said. It strives to speed up conservation and to improve forestry throughout the region. The forests are managed so that timber sales can help with the cost of conserving the land.
Volunteer stewards help with forestry plan by helping with trail maintenance and other tasks, he said. Groton Place has many flowering shrubs, he said.
The setting is gorgeous, but the dog owners were more concerned with keeping their dogs safe, active and socialized.
Walking at Groton Place can have its challenges. One of Bullwinkle’s clumbers has a thing for birds.
Ducks hid out under one of the paths that crosses the Nashua, an owner said. When folks walk over, the birds flush and dogs follow, wallowing right into the water.
Groton Woods was donated by the Dumaine family. One member of the family was an accomplished horsewoman and a flier on the Groton Hunt is available at the entrance.
Hunting groups still hold hunts with horses and hounds, Reinertsen said. No fox is involved, just the scent.
The walkers seemed to enjoy the hunts. The hunting dogs seem to have it pretty good, they said. They are usually back at the vehicle having a snack by the time the horses and riders return.
After talking about naming a new letter, leashes and general dog health and well-being, the group disbanded and headed off in different directions. The fun was not over.
You could almost hear the smile in Eames’s voice when he said, “the pugs.” Tucker ran ahead for the big greeting.
Groton Place and Sabine Woods are just two of the properties the New England Forestry Foundation owns in Groton. Another, Wharton Plantation with 653 acres of managed forest, was donated in 1968 by William P. Wharton.
A presentation on Wharton, an early Groton conservationist, will be held at the Groton Public Library on April 4 at 7 p.m. It is sponsored by the Groton History Center and NEFF.
By ANNE O’CONNOR | Follow Anne O’Connor on Twitter and Tout @a1oconnor.