Our view: Will more parks in Steamboat go to the dogs?
June 6, 2017
At issue: The Steamboat Parks and Recreation Commission has OKed three new off-leash areas in the city.
Our view: We like the idea of more places where dogs can roam free, and we appreciate the efforts of the group that championed the cause.
The Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Commission has endorsed a proposal to create three new off-leash dog areas in town, and we support that recommendation with one caveat.
We think off-leash parks at Stehly Park in Old Town and Whistler Park on the south side of town make perfect sense, but it's our recommendation that the city add a third off-leash area at either Fetcher Park or Emerald Mountain's Gas Line Meadows trail instead of Blackmere Road.
Blackmere Road is used heavily by hikers and mountain bikers, and we know of many people who report they don't like encountering loose dogs on the busy trail. Taking away the leash restriction would only make the route more popular and increase the chance of negative human-dog encounters.
Fetcher Park, along the Yampa River Core Trail, with its large pond perfect for throwing sticks and swimming dogs, seems like a better place for off-leash dogs to roam. And if the powers that be think it's important for there to be one off-leash trail on Emerald, we believe the less-traveled Gas Line Meadow trail on the west edge of the mountain would be best.
The commission's endorsement of three new off-leash areas is a great compromise to the initial request from Steamboat's dog advocates to create seven. By adding just a few of these areas to start, city officials will have the opportunity to gauge if additional parks will result in fewer pedestrian and off-leash dog encounters in busier areas of the city, while also satisfying the needs of Steamboat's passionate dog lovers.
The commission's recommendation comes on the heels of almost a year's worth of work by the Steamboat Digs Dogs group — a grassroots effort born out of citizens' angst over increased enforcement of the city's leash laws, combined with a perceived lack of dog amenities in a city many like to call Dog Town USA.
The group, led unofficially by former city council member Kathy Connell, was very effective in recruiting local dog lovers to help come up with realistic solutions to an enforcement decision that created a rather large public outcry. Rather than just complaining, a large number of locals came together and began meeting regularly to discuss the issue and come up with a viable plan.
The end result of those meetings was a final proposal to add seven new off-leash areas in Steamboat, as well as pursue a list of dog-friendly improvements at Rita Valentine Park — Steamboat's largest existing off-leash dog park located off Anglers Drive near the mountain.
We applaud the members of Steamboat Digs Dogs who proactively came up with workable ideas to make Steamboat more canine friendly. Their efforts included public meetings to gather community input and the launch of a GoFundMe page to raise funds for local dog park and trail improvements. To date, the group has raised $4,560 on a goal of $10,000, with hopes of eventually creating an endowment fund to support dog amenities in the city.
Steamboat Digs Dogs is the perfect embodiment of that famous Margaret Mead quote, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has," and it's groups like this that fuel positive change in our community.