Dog owners like leash-free park |

Dog owners like leash-free park

Scott N. Miller/Daily Staff Writer
Vail Daily/Scott N. MillerEddie Koziol and his dog Bandit frolic at Stephens Park in West Vail Monday. The Vail Town Council will vote tonight on whether to permanently make the park a leash-free dog zone.

Dogs can’t talk, but their owners can and they want a leash-free dog park in West Vail.

Monday afternoon, a handful of dog owners frolicking with their pets at Stephens Park in West Vail said they want the town to make permanent a privilege they’ve enjoyed for the past year: The freedom to run their dogs without leashes in the park.

The Vail Town Council is expected to vote tonight on the first reading of an ordinance making Stephens Park a leash free zone. Public comment will be accepted. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at Vail Town Hall.

“I want this park! And so does my dog, Silver,” said Cindy Boatman.

Bandit, who comes to the park regularly with owner Eddie Koziol, is also in the pro-park ranks. “You can’t do anything without a leash any more,” said Koziol. “I’ve been threatened with tickets after being on the bike path for five minutes.”

Koziol said he’s concerned that the council might reinstate the leash restrictions at the park.

But town spokeswoman Suzanne Silverthorn said that early concerns about free-running dogs at the park have eased considerably since the early days of the experiment last year.

Silverthorn said Stephens Park was the subject of early, vocal comparisons to the off-leash dog area at Bighorn Park in East Vail. That park, she said, was cared for from the start by an active group of neighborhood park users.

When town officials threatened to end the Stephens Park experiment, neighbors banded together to take better care of the facility, especially regarding picking up after park-using pooches.

“We got the attention of the neighbors there,” Silverthorn said. “Since then, complaints have been pretty minimal.”

The issue of dog owners picking up after their pets was a sore point for a handful of park users Monday.

“People need to clean up better,” said resident Jacquelyn Lentz, who added she’s concerned what the park will look like when the snow melts this spring. Lentz said she’d like to see park users get together this spring for a “pooper scooper party.”

Silverthorn said the town would welcome a spring cleanup, and would almost certainly lend some help to such an effort.

Virginia Hannah, an Eagle-Vail resident who uses the park nearly every day in the summer and several times a week in the winter, said she’d join any effort to keep the park clean.

Pointing to her dog, Hannah said, “This is her only hope to run free in the summer.”

Dog owners Monday said a small social scene has sprung up at the park. “Everybody knows everybody,” said Hannah. “Even if you don’t know people’s names, you say “hi’ when we run into each other at the grocery store.”

While dogs and their owners welcome a place to run free, Silverthorn said not everyone likes dogs running free in the neighborhood park.

“There’s no middle ground,” she said. “People are either in full support, or they’re opposed.”

At a glance

The Vail Town Council will vote on a first reading of an ordinance to permanently make Stephens Park a leash-free zone for dogs at its regular meeting tonight. Public comment will be accepted during the hearing. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at Vail Town Hall.

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