Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Some residents thought a local group was barking up the wrong tree with its proposal for three leash-free dog areas.
On Wednesday night, the group -- Responsible Dog Ownership Group of Steamboat -- presented its three-phase proposal to the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Commission. The group had proposed a fenced dog park near Lithia Springs, a swimming area at the Spring Creek Reservoir Park and an off-leash trail on Blackmere Drive.
The formation of the group and the proposal were spurred by a desire for a place where pets could be off leashes in the city.
"There is not a single trail, open space where a person can now throw a Frisbee, have their dogs socialize with other dogs, where they can take them on a run or swim -- unless you keep them on a leash at all times," RDOGS leader Sarah Katherman said.
More than 50 people attended the meeting, some in support of the proposal, others to voice concerns about the possible effects on Lithia Springs, and others to express the problems they say unleashed dogs already cause on Spring Creek Trail and Blackmere Drive.
The Parks and Recreation Commission agreed to recommend to the City Council to have the group meet with stakeholders in Lithia Springs and to come up with new boundaries for the dog park.
It also decided that the proposal for the Spring Creek Reservoir Park as an off-leash swimming area could remain but that the city also should step up its enforcement for dogs off leashes on Spring Creek Trail and on Blackmere Drive. If the Spring Creek Reservoir Park were to have swimming, the commission recommended that it first be on a one-year trial period.
The proposal to have an off-leash trail on Blackmere Drive, which starts in Fairview and extends past the backside of Howelsen Hill and up Emerald Mountain toward the radio towers, was not recommend. Commission members suggested that more research go into that proposal.
The most discussed item of the night was the effect a fenced-in dog park could have on Lithia Springs. The proposed 9-acre dog park would sit off 13th Street and adjacent to the animal shelter. It would be south of the Steamboat Springs bus barn and east of the Yampa Valley Electric Association substation.
Although the proposal fenced out the portion of Lithia Springs, residents were concerned the fence would detract from the view and that the dogs' debris would pollute the spring.
Resident George Tolles said he has been drinking the water from Lithia Springs for more than 40 years and pointed to all the other springs that have disappeared as development occurred.
R.C. Dieckhoff said he has been studying the springs for years and urged the council to consider the uniqueness and cultural value of Lithia Springs.
"It is more important than a bubbling piece of water coming up through the ground. It is part of our heritage we need to protect," he said.
In 1993, Lithia Springs and 7.8 acres surrounding it were given a local historic designation. A majority of the proposed dog park sits within those designated acres.
City Director of Inter-governmental Services Linda Kakela said the city is working on a national historic designation for Lithia Springs in 2005 and 2006.
Residents of areas surrounding Spring Creek Trail and Blackmere Drive were skeptical of the group's proposal, saying dogs off leashes are already a problem. Residents said that the trails are used heavily by hikers, skiers, bikers and parents with small children.
The proposal for Spring Creek would require leashes on the trail but would establish a leash-free area for dogs to swim in the two ponds.
The commission agreed to step up its enforcement of the two trails and hopes users would abide by the rules if they knew it meant gaining more leash-free areas in the future.
"With defined rules for behavior and cleanup, we hope to see more compliance with the city," Katherman said.