Editor’s Note: In Honor of National Trails Day: Please Pick Up After Your Dog

National Trails Day happens annually on the first Saturday in June, and we’ve devoted a few stories to it across several sections of today’s paper. That’s because we have so many ways to enjoy the great outdoors in Door County, whether at the five state parks or the 20 county parks or the two state trails, or the thriving Door County Land Trust (DCLT) properties or the magical Ridges Sanctuary. All offer multiple opportunities for public hiking with different terrains and scenic landscapes.

I live next door to a very active DCLT property. We hike the trails multiple times a week, as do hundreds, if not thousands, of others throughout the season. Because we are always outside working our small hobby farm, we notice how much it’s utilized, and by whom. 

I conclude it’s used as a dog park. This means dogs are unleashed the moment they hit the trail, running every which way off trail. Very, very rarely do you see anyone walking this particular property without dogs. 

I’m a dog lover. When we had dogs, nothing made my heart gladder than walking with dogs off leash, watching them nose unrestrainedly through wide-open terrain. Yet the DCLT posted a large sign at the trailhead requiring dogs to be leashed. Who knows what vulnerable environments or habitats these canine romps are trampling, or which invasive species they’re carrying in or out?

If that were the worst of it, I’d probably keep looking the other way. But it’s not. When we had dogs, a doggie bag was tucked into every pocket of every piece of clothing I owned. I never went anywhere without something with me that could scoop up nature’s call. 

It’s beyond me then, how people can let their dogs run freely on land trust property when the sign says not to, and then let their dogs poop on the trail, often right in the middle. When we walk this trail, we’re always looking down for the doggie land mines. It kind of defeats the purpose of walking out in nature. 

We even had a slight altercation with some fellow trailgoers a few weeks ago. Not only were their dogs unleashed, but they didn’t even have leashes with them and were not able to properly restrain their dogs as we approached. This was not going to be good. 

My spouse, Luther, is the opposite of a scofflaw. It drives him crazy when people brazenly ignore rules. He also has zero qualms about speaking his mind. Put the two together, and I knew he was going to tell this gentleman that the dogs were supposed to be leashed. 

He did.

“We do this all the time,” the guy responded.

Wrong answer. I looked between them, assessing their sizes and frames of mind. It felt like the air had stopped.

“This isn’t your backyard,” Luther said. “It’s for everyone.”

“Get out of my face,” the guy responded.

Luther took a step closer, getting right in his face. He pointed a finger. I almost closed my eyes. I definitely stopped breathing. 

“Keep your dogs on a leash,” Luther said, and walked past the couple.

National Trails Day is a day of service for hometown trails and the people who love them. That means leaving a trail no worse than you found it, and better when you can. But I draw the line at picking up after your dog, so please, do it yourself.