The Aspetuck Land Trust has set new trail-use policies for the Trout Brook Valley Conservation Area in Weston and Easton designed to aid its protection, while allowing use for hiking, dog-walking and other passive recreation.

The new guidelines, released after a 12-month study under contract by Connecticut Audubon Society's conservation services staff, include keeping dogs on leashes while they are in the 1,009-acre preserve. The leash rule was instituted when the study began in November 2011 to "better protect the environment and preserve the abundant but fragile wildlife diversity that exists," according to a release.

Dogs must be leashed throughout the property under their owners' control and remain on designated trails at all times. Off-leash dog walking will be allowed, however, effective April 1 on a two-mile trail loop in the preserve's Crow Hill section on the now blue-white and teal trails, accessible by four public parking areas.

Also effective April 1, horses and mountain bikes will be prohibited on the red-black trail, except for July, August and September. In addition, the yellow trail will be closed to dogs, horses and mountain bikes all year long.

Furthermore, a small section of orange trail that bisects a tributary stream and a vernal pool will be closed off.

"It's our responsibility to manage and preserve Trout Brook Valley for future generations, and we now have a plan to do this based upon the scientific findings in this report," David Brant, the trust's executive director, said in a statement. "Our next step is to better educate the public about this unique and important natural resource."

The study was designed to better identify the preserve's wildlife and ecologically fragile areas to enable the trust to make more informed decisions about managing the property for both conservation and public use purposes.

The preserve, which has a 21-mile trail system, forms the core of a 6,400-acre expanse that serves as the "green heart" of the region, according to the society's report.

The Aspetuck Land Trust allows off-leash dog walking on all of its other 41 nature preserves, except for the Newman Poses preserve in Westport, where dogs must be leashed.

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