MCR received an email from a visitor this week, that stated ” I was at Merrill Creek Reservoir this morning (8/12/23) and the trails are full of dog poop. Gross, disgusting, stinky, and nasty. I think MCR should prohibit dogs, since dog owners don’t want to clean up after their dogs. Either that or have staff clean up all the dog poop on the trails, which I’m sure they don’t want to do.”

MCR could not agree more with that visitor’s statements, as we certainly do not want to clean up someone else’s pet waste and trails full of dog poop are gross, disgusting, stinky, and nasty.  Quite frankly being able to bring your pet to MCR (a private property) is a privilege not a right, so cleaning up after your pet defecates on MCR property is important to maintain that privilege.   That said, the signs around MCR say – “There is No Poo Fairy -please pick up and take home your pet waste for disposal.”  But yet here we are reminding people to please cleanup after your pet defecates on the property. 

We can only assume that folks don’t think about the impacts that leaving pet waste behind has on the aesthetics, pubic and animal health and the ecology that make MCR so great.   So, lets take a closer look at what it means to not cleanup after your pet defecates on the trails are MCR:

  • MCR has a small staff and has many other tasks that are crucial to ensure safety, security, ecological management and dam functionality at MCR.  Having staff time devoted to cleanup up random pet waste not only takes away time from these other projects that benefit the region on numerous levels, but there are potential health risks to staff. However, this issue is a condition brought on by the public itself and can be rectified by the public as the public are guests at MCR and it is really just simple common courtesy and being a responsible and respectful pet owner.   How would you like it if people just allowed their pets to defecate on your property and did nothing to clean it up?  If cleaning up after your pet and taking your pet’s waste home to dispose of it properly is something you can’t or won’t do, then maybe MCR is not the place for you to bring your pet, plain and simple. Why should everyone else be subject to your pet’s waste and ruin their experience here?  


  • Pet waste is very toxic — NOTE: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified and documented that “the pathogens, disease causing bacteria and viruses, in pet waste have caused severe illness in humans and in wildlife.” A study conducted by EPA, estimated, “that waste produced by just 100 dogs in two or three days (or one weekend) at a park with a small waterbody can contain enough bacteria to temporarily close waterbodies to swimming and fishing.” 


  • The EPA also indicates that: “Pet waste left on the street or lawn does not just go away or fertilize the grass. Rain washes pet waste down storm drains and into waterways. It also may impact native vegetation growth in a negative way if areas are consistently defiled by pet waste.  When pet waste ends up in water bodies, it decomposes, releasing nutrients that cause excessive growth of algae and weeds. This makes the water murky, green, smelly, provides a nitrogen source for algae blooms, which depletes the water of oxygen and can make people and animals sick.”


Please note that MCR contains waterbodies that are designated by the NJDEP as “FW2-TPC1” water.  This designation means these water bodies are considered as having exceptional water quality of ecological significance, as well as exceptional recreational significance, exceptional water supply significance, and/or exceptional fisheries resources and these waterbodies are also Trout Production waterbodies.  MCR also contains not just one, by two, of only a handful of streams left in the state that are critical for the survival of the NJ State Fish – the Brook Trout (NJ’s only native trout species) .  So, by leaving your pet waste on trails is not helpful or responsible to ensuring these natural resources are not impacted.

What you can do to keep MCR Clean, Beautiful and Safe for ALL when you bring your Pet to MCR:


  • Keep your dogs OUT of the water at MCR – no swimming, wading, or walking dogs in the water.

  • Be a responsible pet owner and clean up after your pet – Keep a supply of bags handy

When walking your pet, take a bag with you for quick waste pick-up. It helps to keep a supply of bags near your dog leash and to tie the bags on the leash if you don’t have a pocket or pack. Consider re-using plastic newspaper bags or bread bags. Use the bag to pick up the waste, and tie it closed. When at home, long-handled pooper scoopers available at pet stores make it easy to pick up after pets without stooping over.

  • Dispose of pet waste properly at home – don’t leave it here at MCR!

Place sealed bags of pet waste in the trash. It may help to double bag dog waste. Do not throw waste into the woods or near or into storm drains or waterways – TAKE IT HOME AND DISPOSE OF IT PROPERLY THERE.

  • Follow local and/or private property rules and signs about pets on the property

  • Help others remember to scoop the poop – Don’t let your pet pollute, and encourage those around you to be responsible pet owners, too.