Carole Buelter plays with Cecil at Spring Creek Park on Monday morning.

Photo by John F. Russell

Carole Buelter plays with Cecil at Spring Creek Park on Monday morning.

Off-leash proposals being planned in Steamboat Springs

City staff drafting ordinance that would expand areas at parks


— City staffers are preparing a new ordinance that would expand off-leash dog areas at Spring Creek and Rita Valentine parks beginning this fall.

The ordinance also could increase signage at off-leash areas and add pick-up stations for dog waste, while also spurring the end of the city’s voice- and sight-control evidence tag program.

The Steamboat Springs City Council expressed support for expanded off-leash areas Aug. 3, in a 5-1 vote with Councilman Walter Magill opposing. At Spring Creek, the expansion would allow dogs to be off-leash from the trailhead on Amethyst Drive all the way past Spring Creek Park, to the footbridge leading farther up the Spring Creek trail. Chris Wilson, director of the city’s Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department, noted that after that footbridge, the Spring Creek Trail enters county land, where off-leash dogs under voice and sight command are allowed, so the changes would effectively make the entire trail an off-leash area.

Wilson said the expansion would make all of Rita Valentine Park an off-leash dog area. Off-leash dogs currently are allowed only in an area near the park’s parking lot.

City Council’s wide-ranging discussion of dog-related regulations Aug. 3 was in response to recommendations made by the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission. Wilson said that commission now will work with the Steamboat Springs Police Department and city animal control officers to discuss increased signage and enforcement of animal waste regulations. City Council members Cari Hermacinski and Meg Bentley asked for more enforcement of dog waste pick-up regulations.

“I think we need ticketing,” Bentley said.

Wilson said the new ordinance, intended for City Council agendas this fall, could address those issues. He said ending the city’s voice- and sight-control evidence tag program, in which dog owners receive city certification for using off-leash areas, will be up to City Manager Jon Roberts. The program exists at Robert’s discretion, Wilson said Monday.

Councilman Kenny Reisman opposed the program Aug. 3, calling it “fluffy” and “a waste of time” that smacks of over-governance.

“I don’t see the value of the program,” Reisman said. “I think it gives us, as a city, a false sense of complacency.”

Wilson said given City Council’s direction this month, the tag program likely would end with the new ordinance.

Magill said he opposed the off-leash expansions because he often hears from constituents who have problems with off-leash dogs.

“Off-leash dogs with irresponsible owners are a hazard to kids, runners, bikers,” Magill said.

Danielle Domson, a local district wildlife manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, opposed the expansion of off-leash areas in Spring Creek because of elk winter range bordering the property. Much of the Spring Creek Trail through county land is seasonally closed for elk habitat.

“I think there are other areas that are much smarter areas to have an off-leash area,” Domson said.

Wilson said that until City Council approves the new ordinance through the public hearing process, the current off-leash dog regulations remain in place. Spring Creek Park and the designated area at Rita Valentine Park are the city’s only off-leash areas.

City regulations require that dogs be on a 6-foot handheld leash unless in an off-leash area. Residents can call 970-879-4300 for more information about off-leash certification.

“Until the ordinance has its first and second reading … you need to follow the 6-foot handheld leash (rules),” Wilson said.


housepoor 6 years, 8 months ago

I say we make the entire Rita Valentine off leash but do not allow the owners and dogs play catch with Frisbees, balls are ok as fetch is a traditional activity and the wildlife and neighbors should be used to it and would not cause them any undue stress


papafu 6 years, 8 months ago

I say those who walk their dogs either on or off leash need to be more vigilant in policing those who are not responsible enough to pick up after their own animal. Saying in a nice way (Hey ahole your dog just st on the trail. Here's a bag) other more responsible dog people could help with the waste pick up. As in most situations of irresponsibility, it might just come down to the more responsible cleaning up after those who just don't get it.


greenwash 6 years, 8 months ago

Not sure how dogs off leash are any better than frisbee golfers?In fact I say frisbee golfers would have less impact.Dogs loose are a danger regardless of what their owner thinks.Dogs are unpredictable by nature.Loose dogs chase wildlife and scare off nesting birds and other animals that may be laying in the long grass.Also, we all know that if your dog goes off to poop in the weeds the owner is not going to pick it up.I see it everyday. Stupid idea that isnt even enforcable.RARELY is animal control in the right place at the right time.Next time your out and about have a look,most dogs are off leash already.This is BS and a total waste of time.


Oshkoshgirl 6 years, 8 months ago

So according to our city council, dogs running free in Rita Valentine Park do NOT cause undue stress on wildlife, but frisbee golf players do. I can honestly say I have never seen a frisbee golf player run madly after a deer barking and terrorizing it. I cannot say the same thing for dogs.


Brian Kotowski 6 years, 8 months ago

The problem is that for every responsible owner, there are 20 pinheads. Multiply that by 10 during the season when the brain dead 20 something transients decide it'd be cool to have a dog while they're here. I'm glad I'm out in the county and no longer have to deal with it; and my mutt can harass all the whistle pigs & rodents he likes.


John Fielding 6 years, 8 months ago


I hope we don't dedicate any city staff time to watching for poop violations to ticket.



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