Steamboat Springs After some 11th-hour tweaking, the Steamboat Springs City Council voted, 4-2, on Tuesday to allow exercising dogs without a leash in Rita Valentine Park as long as they are under voice and sight control.
Spring Creek Park was exempted from consideration for off-leash dog walking, with the notable exception of the area immediately surrounding First Pond, where many people enjoy tossing balls and sticks into the water for their pets.
“The pond operates virtually as a dog park — it’s partially fenced,” City Manager Jon Roberts said.
The council agreed with him, but Councilman Walter Magill, who dissented along with Councilman Kenny Reisman, cautioned people who are accustomed to walking their dogs off leash in Spring Creek Park.
“With the passage of this ordinance, you will see enforcement,” Magill said. “We clearly have heard that both education and enforcement will be stepped up now — new ordinance, new rules, new education.”
The new ordinance goes into effect five days after it is published in the legal section of the newspaper, possibly by Thanksgiving.
Reisman said he continues to favor extending off-leash privileges throughout Spring Creek Park, which sees heavy use by hikers, cyclists and even a few horseback riders mixed in with the occasional passenger car driven by one of the few homeowners who live farther up the narrow road.
Pet owners planning to exercise their dogs off leash at Rita Valentine Park still could face penalties if they can’t demonstrate that they have their dog in control.
The new ordinance specifies that pet owners must keep their dogs under voice and sight control at all times and be prepared to demonstrate that control at the request of any law enforcement officer or Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department staff member. The inability to demonstrate that control could result in a citation.
The term “sight and voice control” as contained in the ordinance means: “The owner or keeper of the dog is in sight of the dog and is in sufficient control of the dog’s behavior that it does not charge, chase or otherwise display aggression toward any person, dog, wild animal, or fail to come to and stay with the owner or keeper immediately upon command.”
Councilman Jon Quinn confessed to his colleagues that he routinely violates the leash ordinance.
“This (new off-leash ordinance) still leaves me as a criminal every day when I go to the park and play Frisbee with my dog,” Quinn said.
Later, he explained that he thinks dog owners should have a leash and a waste bag with them at all times; however, he thinks there’s ample room at Whistler Park for a more common-sense approach, short of a fenced park, to allowing well-behaved dogs off leash.
“The new ordinance is a good start,” Quinn said.
The council’s discussion of pet ordinances shifted focus to dog waste when Magill expressed his support for greater enforcement of existing ordinances requiring pet owners to pick up after their animals.
“The bigger issue is people not picking up dog waste,” Magill said. “If you can’t call an animal control officer and get that enforced, then we’re not helping our people.”
Quinn observed that at Whistler Park, on the city’s south side, it is private pet owners who turn out and clean the park of wild animal droppings along with pet waste every spring.
“The moose and elk are in there all winter,” Quinn said.