After reading the Steamboat Pilot & Today's coverage on the issue of leash laws in last week's paper, one would probably think that I support repealing leash laws and letting dogs run amok in our fair city. There were a couple of carefully chosen sound bytes accompanied by a picture of two dogs off-leash on Lincoln Avenue that were sure to convince you that I condone this behavior. I assure you, this is not at all the case.
I could never imagine a circumstance in which it would be acceptable to have a dog off leash downtown on Lincoln Avenue, or on the core trail for that matter. That is clearly unacceptable and should not be condoned. And for the record, I also would not be in support of building a dog park with taxpayer dollars at this juncture, either. We have a lot of projects on the list, and that is not even on the radar.
I am truly sick and tired of irresponsible dog owners. There is just no excuse for not picking up after your dog. Your friends and neighbors have the right to expect that they can enjoy their parks and trails without having to navigate an insurmountable pile of poop. And our children especially deserve safe and fun parks. I don't care what season it is, whether there is snow on the ground, mud or grass - pick it up!
Every spring, Whistler Park melts and uncovers the injustice put upon us by so many dog owners. Certainly the scene is played out all across town. Perhaps these slackers believe that the next snowstorm will absolve them of their sins. Indeed, it is these dog owners who ruin it for the rest of us.
Ever wonder who picks up all the poop? I'll tell you: the responsible dog owners. In spring, as Whistler Park reveals its hidden land mines, you may notice that somehow the piles of poop slowly begin to vanish. By the time the fields are dry and ready for summer soccer, kite flying and general kid mayhem, the poop is gone. Bio-degradation? City services? Contract landscapers? No. The cleanup effort begins and ends with your neighbors, and I can assure you that every man or woman wielding a poop scooper or a shovel is a responsible dog owner.
Of course, this is how it should be. In fact, perhaps every dog owner should be responsible for every pile of dog poop they come upon. Maybe that would encourage the community of dog owners to better police its weaker citizens who don't pull their own weight and give the rest a bad name.
I will personally never offer excuses for a lazy pet owner. Nor would I support loosening the rules to make it easier for the slackers out there. I do, however, support the choice to be a dog owner, and I believe we would all agree that it is in the public interest to create a safe and enjoyable environment for all of our residents.
Currently, the leash law is very black and white and is applied equally whether you are on Lincoln Avenue or at the far corner of a park, hundreds of yards from the next human being. I simply think that our world is not so black and white. It is true that many other communities have similar leash laws, but most of these same communities are able to strike a balance with dedicated open space for dog parks or other leash-free areas that are effective at meeting the needs of dog owners and minimizing the impact on the community as a whole. I submit to you that Steamboat has yet to find the right balance.
Steamboat Springs resident
and City Council member