Edwards dog park proposal raises patrons’ hackles
Plan would extend split rail fencing around sections of popular pooch area
EAGLE — Many local dog owners love giving Rover unfettered access to the pond area at Freedom Park in Edwards, one of the few free-range dog parks in Eagle County.
But county officials say they have received an increased number of complaints about dog waste and aggressive canine interactions. In response to those issues, the county’s animal services staff proposed extending fencing in the Freedom Park area to define off-leash boundaries because it “would help control dogs running around the entire pond area and improve conditions in the surrounding areas for other users to enjoy.”
Specifically, the staff proposal calls for reorganization of the Freedom Park pond area into a 1.7 acre off-leash area. “This improvement to the park area would allow dogs with their owners to still run and play, and also allow the other public users of the pond area and paths to do so without interaction with dogs,” stipulated the county proposal.
The proposed fence materials would match the existing fencing at the pond and ECO Transit fence being placed at the new bus stop.
Additionally, the proposal called for a set of signs stating that pets could be off-leash within the fenced area and other signs stating that pets must remain on-leash beyond that area.
“This will create a better experience for all users of the pond and help to manage the pet waste and pet/park user interactions,” noted the county proposal.
Those recommendations were presented to the Eagle County Board of Commissioners during a work session Tuesday, where delegation of dog park users voiced their displeasure with the plan.
‘Solution in search of a problem’
Nathan Lehnert, Eagle County Animal Services Field Services Manager, presented the proposed changes for the Freedom Park area.
“We do have negative interactions on a regular basis,” Lehnert said.
Lehnert did not provide specifics regarding the number of animal control reports at the location, noting that in locations where dogs are allowed off-leash, aggressive behavior often results.
But a number of residents who regularly visit the dog park argued that any aggressive dog issues at Freedom Park are short-lived and that the park patrons themselves police dog waste issues. They have collected more than nearly 400 petition signatures in support of that position.
“The dogs get along,” said Edwards resident Tim Swift. “Never have I seen a negative interaction with a human being.”
“This strikes me as a solution that needs a problem,” Swift added.
“Most of the time I have seen great dogs,” said park user Jan Noel. She told the commissioners that the location is an important rehab area for seniors who enjoy walking dogs around the lake.
Edwards resident Jane Stampe noted without actual statistics and report details regarding incidents at the location, it is difficult to gauge the extent of the reported problem.
“It’s always been a very pretty and enjoyable place,” Stampe said. “I am certain there are ways we can spend our money in the county other than fencing.”
Part of the process
From the onset of Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners stressed they hadn’t yet made a decision about the fencing proposal.
“No decisions have been made and this is the start of the process,” Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney said.
She said the goal was to find a balance for the needs of different groups that use Freedom Park, not to eliminate a popular amenity.
But the park users noted that the signs announcing the proposal — which were posted at the dog park late last week — indicated the fence construction would commence in October. Not so, said the commissioners. They said the October construction plan was part of an overall proposal that hasn’t yet been approved.
“I think there is some sense we were going to do something that the public didn’t like,” said Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry. Instead, she said the announcement signs at the park and Tuesday’s work session were planned to give people an opportunity to comment on the plan.
“Now we need some time to go back and look through what we have received,” Chandler-Henry said. “This is part of the process.”
McQueeney added that the Freedom Park rules are part of a larger discussion — Eagle County’s leash law rules. The county is looking at revising those rules.
“You need to understand staff did hear complaints. It wasn’t a solution looking for a problem,” McQueeney said. “It is about the varied users.
Eagle County Schools added six mental health counselors and the district will add two more school resource officers, according to the school district’s 2019-2020 budget book. The district also aised starting pay and gave staffers a 2.3% cost-of-living raise.