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GIVING BACK: Keene locals install dog waste stations along AuSable River watershed

October 13, 2017
By ANTONIO OLIVERO - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

KEENE - With the uptick in visitation to this mountain town at the heart of the High Peaks, there are a number of impacts to the fragile AuSable River valley watershed that locals are increasingly becoming more concerned about protecting.

For Betsy Richert, an owner of an environmental consulting firm in Keene for two decades, the problem she saw accelerate in the past two years was dog waste littered at popular locations, such throughout the state Route 73 corridor.

Richert identified the problem thanks to her work specializing for more than two decades in surface water protection and her previous experience working as a backcountry guide in the area, where she saw the effects of overuse in and around the High Peaks Wilderness Area.

Article Photos

Betsy Richert stands beside Huckleberry, a rescue dog from Throw Away Pups, in June along the East Branch of the AuSable River at a newly installed dog waste station.
(Photo provided)

"There are too many people in a fragile, fragile system," Richert said. "It's not sustainable."

Within the past few years, Richert said she observed how with Keene and Keene Valley becoming even more of a popular "jumping-off" spot for hikers, the town has been faced with the need for many new services, such as a hiker shuttle, garbage pick-up and removal, new trailheads and dog waste stations.

For years, she's walked popular loops in the area such as down Hulls Falls Road, over the bridge, down Grist Mill Road to state Route 73, walking in the area of Hulls Falls Road. But it was only last year that the sheer concentrated amount of dog feces left on the ground on that loop was a noticeable and borderline shocking uptick.

"It was like I've never seen before," she said.

"A lot of people don't realize their pet waste that is left doesn't break down," she added. "That bacteria can cause diarrhea, intestinal illnesses, cramps. And pet wastes can also contain parasites such as round worms, giardia and can spread from dog waste to tother pets. But people think they're walking on a country lane, what's the big deal?"

It was a big enough deal for Richert to bring to the attention to the Keene Town Council at their May 9 meeting. She presented a proposal to the board, a creative partnership to run a pilot project to demonstrate that indeed there is a need for dog waste stations throughout the town.

Then in mid-June, Richert teamed up with another local in Debra Whitson who donated two dog waste stations at a cost of $199 each. Each Friday afternoon since, Richert has serviced the stations, lugging more than 65 pounds of dog waste people disposed in the two new stations to the town's transfer station.

At the dog waste station on Grist Mill Road, located two miles up from state Route 73 at the new bridge erected after Tropical Storm Irene, 39.5 pounds of waste has been collected. And at the Hulls Falls Road station, one behind the Adirondack Mountain Health Center, a company that has partnered with the group to locate the station on their property, 26 pounds have been collected. Richert said she expects to collect more than 70 total pounds of dog waste for the season after she makes her final pick-up on Oct. 13.

"Probably the biggest numbers we saw were in July," Richert said. "July was pretty steady, when we had the most volume, but then we had a big slug, if you will, in late August. Toward the end of July, we had some pretty big numbers, and Aug. 18 was also pretty big."

Richert described the waste stations as similar to those placed around Mirror Lake in Lake Placid, as there is a box on top that has the actual dispenser bags people can use to pick up their dog's waste. Below that is the actual lined waste basket, one where people can also toss their own plastic bags brought from home.

The Keene Town Council will soon decide if they will go forward with financing the kind of expanded dog waste station infrastructure that Richert and those working with her would like to see. She identified the iconic beaver meadow at the Rooster Comb trailhead, the community center athletic field and Marcy Airfield as other locations where dog waste stations would help. Another positive development is that the Keene Valley chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club has also donated $199 for a station.

However much larger the dog waste infrastructure grows, thus far, Richert lauds the Keene Town Council for their interest and efforts.

"Supervisor Joe Pete Wilson has been fantastic to work with," Richert said. "He understands the massive changes that are occurring in our community and is working with us to make it permanent and to expand it to other locations in Keene and Keene Valley.

"We are the home of the High Peaks," she added, "so we should also be the home of clean water and air. And we need to protect the best asset we have before it's ruined."



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