Nod Brook Training Area in Simsbury, Connecticut, is a 137-acre, wild-as-you-please park that loudly declares in many forms that it is NOT a dog park, although it is a place where dogs can run off leash and frolic and swim and just be themselves. So why isn't it called a dog park?
The difference is the purpose of the park, which is to hold hunting dog field trials and allow for training of dogs who point and retrieve more than a tennis ball. In effect, these dogs are service dogs, although they do not assist people with disabilities. Hunters invest a lot in these dogs in terms of time, energy, devotion, and tradition.
But they are working dogs and the state had designated the area as an off-leash facility – one of four designated state off-leash dog sites – under a guarded stipulation that the dogs should be under voice control at all times. One website says Nod Brook is a park where dogs “learn how to swim.” That's only partly correct. It is a park where hunting dogs learn to retrieve waterfowl.
And, walkers beware, there are dates posted at the entrance and on the Internet that tell you when live ammunition is used on the property. This is allowed during hunting dog field trials, which is an activity that hunters and breeders of hunting dogs take very seriously. The field trials are at sporadic dates through the year for events that run from one to five days.
In 2018, for example, there are 95 days between April 30 and December 10 that have been penciled in for field trials. Dog walkers must be respectful of these dates or risk friction with the group for whom the land has been legally sanctioned by the state. According to a 2008 compromise in the state capital, dogs must be leashed in Connecticut in wilderness areas except in the four dog training areas.
Nod Brook is unfenced and popular with hunters and dog walkers, as well, but it is curious that the political friction at Nod Brook has come between these two types of dog owners, rather than, say, dog walkers and a local residential group. In this case, dog walkers have sometimes wandered through the area during a dog trial and been confused or offended when they were told they have to leave.
Only dogs involved in the trials are allowed at those events. Having stated some of the rules loud and clear, it remains to be said that dog walkers absolutely love this off-leash area when it is open to them. It is a wild and free territory with great access to swimming for dogs.