MARQUETTE - The Noquemanon Trail Network, which winds through some of the most picturesque spots in the area, attracts many hikers, cross-country skiers and other outdoors enthusiasts.
It also attracts a most unwanted visitor: Dog feces.
"It's because the trails are very popular," said Nicole Dewald, NTN director of operations.
Lindsay Wagner, a member of the Noquemanon Trail Network, said she believes in proper trail etiquette when it comes to dogs. Dogs are welcome on Noquemanon trails, but trail guidelines should be followed, according to trail advocates. (Photo courtesy of Lindsay Wagner)
The greater the traffic - especially involving users with dogs - the greater the chance of a fecal aftermath.
Of course, this wouldn't be a problem if everyone picked up after their canines, or if canines didn't defecate. Unfortunately, dogs leave calling cards, and their owners don't always pick them up.
Dewald said this goes against good trail stewardship.
"Anywhere you go, you try to have a 'leave no trace' policy," she said.
Ignoring this policy in this manner can leave a bad first impression. Dewald pointed out most dog feces are found within 100 yards of people getting out of their vehicles to enter the trail.
"Who wants to walk through a pile of dog poop?" asked Lindsay Wagner, an NTN member.
The NTN is trying to be proactive in dealing with the problem. Planned is an "Invasive Feces" clean-up from 9 a.m. to noon April 26, starting at the South Trails parking lot off M-553. The public is invited to help remove feces from the trails. A trail hike will follow at noon.
Wagner had an idea why some people don't clean up after their dogs.
"They're in the woods," she said. " 'Why should I pick up my poop in the woods?' "
Signage and a "massive" education campaign, Wagner said, are ways the message can get across to the public.
"It's going to be a continuing issue," NTN member Adam Robarge said. "Dogs will still be pooping."
Dewald said there were 63 dog passes issued at $15 each for the 2013-14 season. (Various membership levels are listed online at www.noquetrails.org.)
The NTN has a list of on-trail guidelines for users with dogs. They include:
- Buy a doggy trail pass for $1 per day or $15 for the season.
- The obvious: Remove dogs' feces, and even those of other dogs.
- When passing from behind, call "trail" and "on your right (or left)." If being passed, move to one side behind the dog and shorten the line or leash.
- Do not use trails with more dogs than can be controlled.
- Discourage dogs from approaching other trail users without dogs.
As far as pre-trail guidelines go, users are asked to abide by municipal animal control ordinances and city, state and federal park regulations. Dogs are to be kept current on vaccinations for rabies and other contagious diseases.
Also, aggressive dogs are not allowed. Problems can be reported to the city of Marquette animal control at 228-8908 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Protocol for dogs that bite is an "animal bite report form" and 10 days quarantine.
Dogs are not allowed in trailhead buildings, with users asked to restrain dogs before and after hitting the trail by attaching the animals to a hitching post, for example.
"If we can at least encourage the use of leashes, it's going to curb a lot of problems beyond the poop issue," Wagner said.
The NTN also seeks public donations for pet-waste stations, trash removal and maintenance. (Dewald noted each station costs $330.) Donations can be sent to the NTN at P.O. Box 746, Marquette MI 49855.
Dewald said the NTN has three stations, with a goal of adding eight more.
For more information on the April 26 clean-up, call the NTN at 235-6861.
Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.