I always enjoy discovering new places to walk, especially those that are unique in some way.
I’m not much of a pet person, so earlier this year the opening of the new Animal Rescue League of Boston’s South Shore headquarters on Route 53 in Pembroke didn’t really attract my attention. I figured it was just some kind of animal shelter.

Well, I was half right, but it turns out that most of the 69 acres of the new facility at 599 Washington Street have been set aside as a nature preserve. The Rescue League enlisted the help of Massachusetts Audubon, and together they carved out three medium-length trails.
I’ve often heard dog owners lament that although there are a number of nature preserves on the South Shore, a significant portion of them do not allow dogs on the property. This is generally for a very good reason, as dogs – who are characteristically curious – might disrupt the more fragile species and habitats the caretakers of these parcels aim to protect.

Unfortunately for dog lovers who also happen to be nature enthusiasts, that leaves far fewer choices when they want to go for a walk outdoors.

But the Animal Rescue League now offers an alternative. Not only are dogs permitted on the Rescue League’s wooded trails, they are encouraged to visit (supervised by a human, of course). If you don’t have a dog of your own, you may even be able to bring one from the shelter out for a walk!

Being violently allergic to pretty much all furry pets, I had to pass on the dog walking option. But I did enjoy exploring the trails on my own.

One path, which begins near the parking area, is quite wide. A layer of fresh wood chips on the ground helps to illuminate the otherwise shaded landscape, reflecting what little sunlight manages to filter through the still-leafy trees.

This path leads to two others: One heads off toward Little Pudding Brook, while the other brings you to the pet adoption center.

The trail to Little Pudding Brook is narrower than the first trail. It leads to a boardwalk, which takes you to a platform at the edge of the brook. The woods along the boardwalk are denser than on the rest of the property, with a lot of tall maple and hemlock trees, and some dogwoods (how appropriate. . . ) in between. When I visited in late September, the brook was dry but for a few puddles, but that will certainly change as summer ends and the damper weather returns. There was moss on the ground, and ferns, plus some hollowed-out trees and some really interesting-looking fungi, so even though the trail itself is not very long, there is still a lot to see.

The trail to the adoption center is also narrow, and much curvier than the other two. All three are well maintained, but watch out for jagged rocks and small stumps protruding from the path.

Plastic mitts are provided at both the parking area and adoption center trailheads, and visitors are asked to pick up after their pets when necessary. Still, be careful not to stray far from the path – with just as many dogs as humans using these trails, you may find (as I did) an unpleasant surprise underfoot.

If you’re looking for a long walk in the woods, the trails at the Animal Rescue League might not be the right choice, as on the whole, they are rather short. But if you bring dog or small children along with you, these trails are ideal for light exercise and exploration. With the exception of occasional gunfire from the rod and gun club nearby, the trails at the Animal Rescue League’s South Shore headquarters offer a peaceful retreat from the busy world.

by Kezia Bacon Bernstein, Correspondent
September 2002

Kezia Bacon Bernstein’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168.