mcmurdo

Cross-country skiers are shown with dogs running freely in Whitaker Woods in 2016. Conway Town Manager Tom Holmes says he has taken several complaints of people being “rushed” by dogs in the town-owned recreation area. (SALLY McMURDO FILE PHOTO)

CONWAY — Selectmen are considering whether to implement a leash law in Whitaker Woods after the town fielded a couple of complaints about unruly dogs there.

The town manager will be taking public input for the time being.

According to Conway Daily Sun Nordic Tracks columnist Sally McMurdo, "Whitaker Woods is a 180-acre multi-use non-motorized recreational area owned by the Town of Conway.

"Contained within its boundaries are about 45K of trails, ranging from wide woods trails to single track. The wooded area is managed by the Conway Conservation Commission and the 6-acre open fields are managed by the Conway Recreation Department."

In the wintertime, people use Whitaker Woods for cross-country skiing, and in the summer for hiking.

Conway Town Manager Tom Holmes said on Wednesday that his goal in bringing up the subject at Tuesday's selectmen's meeting was to get the issue into the public's consciousness.

"We have received some complaints about people being rushed by dogs that were not on leashes," Holmes said, adding, "There's no leash law in Conway currently."

In Conway, he said, "We follow the state law that says 'under the control of the owner,' which could be verbal control or whatever."

Holmes said he's only fielded a couple of complaints, but when he asked people that he knows use Whitaker Woods, they told him dogs are indeed a problem there.

"I asked, like, 10 people, and 100 percent of them said something needs to be done about the dog issue in Whitaker Woods," said Holmes.

Town staff, including Recreation Director John Eastman and Public Works Director Paul DegliAngeli (in his capacity as a member of the Mt. Washington Valley Ski Touring & Snowshoe Foundation), believe that if there is to be a leash law in Conway, Whitaker Woods would be the right place to test it.

Selectmen have the authority to create a leash law.

Holmes said the purpose of passing a leash law would be to put up signage that says that dogs must be leashed. Then if there's a problem the offending dog owner would face liability.

The Sun asked Police Chief Ed Wagner what he thinks of the proposal.

"We will do what the selectmen think is right for the town of Conway," said Wagner, adding that the law, if one is passed, will apply to residents and visitors alike. He said the police will take "appropriate action" if anyone is bitten by a dog.

The idea of a leash law was met with a mixed reception at the selectmen's meeting Tuesday, according to Holmes.

Selectman Mary Carey Seavey suggested a townwide leash law, but former selectman Stacy Sand appeared at the meeting and spoke against it as a member of the public.

Apparently Conway isn't the only town in New Hampshire dealing with leash law issues this month.

The Nashua Telegraph reported Wednesday that there are concerns about that city's leash law, which doesn't say how long a leash must be.

"This leaves some residents wondering if the city’s leash law provides adequate protection for pedestrians — and other dogs — because some leashed canines may be aggressive," Mathew Plamondon reported in his story "A Fuzzy Law: Nashua’s Leash Law lacks specificity."

People who wish to share their opinion about a Conway leash law may contact Executive Secretary Krista Day at the town hall or the selectmen. The town of Conway has an email link at conwaynh.org, or people may call (603) 447-3811, Ext. 210.

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