Steamboat Digs Dogs cleans up 1,000 piles of poop Sunday | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat Digs Dogs cleans up 1,000 piles of poop Sunday

Rich Danter cleans up dog waste at Rita Valentine Park on Sunday while his dog, Crispy Creme, a labrador and golden retriever mix, watches.

— Steamboat Digs Dogs volunteers spent Sunday afternoon collecting, weighing and disposing of dog waste at parks around town in an effort they hope will reduce the community's "carbon pawprint."

The cleanup took place at five popular recreation areas for dogs and was the first event of its kind organized by Steamboat Dig Dogs, a new dog advocacy group formed in fall 2016.

"It was an unbelievable success, and we only scratched the surface," said volunteer Laura Brewer, who helped organize the event.

Brewer said volunteers, who only worked about an hour on each area, flagged and picked up 940 piles of dog waste weighing 650 pounds.

Poop was most plentiful at Rita Valentine Park and on the Spring Creek trail, where volunteers flagged 372 piles of waste between the parking area and the off-leash dog area a short distance down the trail. Waste was also collected on Emerald Mountain and Butcherknife Creek Trail and at Whistler Park.

At Rita Valentine Park, dozens of flags identified dog waste within about 20 feet of the park's two garbage cans, and volunteers quickly flagged 200 piles of waste within about 10 minutes of arriving at the park.

Volunteer Rich Danter said he joined Steamboat Digs Dogs and agreed to help clean up Rita Valentine Park Sunday to do his part in making the city more dog friendly.

He hopes the group can succeed in designating more off-leash areas in the city.

"It's become obvious that there's not enough places to exercise your dog outside," said Danter, who brought his 2 1/2-year-old retriever mix, Crispy Creme, to the park for the cleanup.

Brewer, who is also volunteer coordinator for Routt County Humane Society, said that, in addition to cleaning up the popular dog areas, the event was meant to raise awareness about the environmental impacts of dog waste.

"I'm worried about the environment," Brewer said.

In February, dog owners in Evergreen learned that a popular 107-acre dog park there could close after 500 pounds of dog poop was picked up during a three day period in the fall, and bacteria levels were found to be extremely high in a creek running through the park.

Instead, county officials have closed 100 acres for cleanup and left a seven-acre parcel open.

"Those people lost their park," Brewer said.

Brewer, who composts the waste of her three dogs at home, said she'd like to see the city use dog waste composting stations at popular parks.

Brewer and her husband plan to donate anaerobic dog waste digesters to the Humane Society and the city for Rita Valentine Park in the coming months.

In the meantime, she'd like to see people stop using plastic grocery bags to clean up waste and, instead, opt for biodegradable bags.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow