Steamboat Springs commissioners mull risks of expanded off-leash dog areas
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A dog advocacy group’s effort to greatly expand the number of off-leash dog areas in Steamboat Springs met some resistance Wednesday at a Parks and Recreation Commission hearing.
Commissioners want to wait until May 24 to vote on seven proposed off-leash areas proposed by Steamboat Digs Dogs.
The group wants to give the public some more time to weigh in on the proposals.
The commission’s reluctance to take any votes yet came during a meeting where a state wildlife official raised some concerns about how new off-leash areas might lead to more conflicts between dogs and moose, elk and other wild animals.
Area Wildlife Manager Kris Middledorf with Colorado Parks and Wildlife prefaced his comments by noting that since 2013, there have been five moose attacks on humans in the Steamboat Springs area, with all of them involving dogs in some way.
He also recounted how a calf elk had to be put down here in 2015 after an off-leash dog viciously attacked it on Emerald Mountain.
“It’s almost impossible for us (at Parks and Wildlife) to condone dogs being off leash,” Middledorf said.
Some areas that Middledorf said posed greater risks for dog and wildlife interactions included the Spring Creek Trail, Whistler Park and River Creek Park, all areas where Steamboat Digs Dogs wants to see more off-leash areas.
He suggested that lower elevations on Emerald Mountain might be safer, but elk could still be in the area.
Middledorf noted River Creek Park is a complex riparian habitat that moose frequent, and off-leash dogs could get into altercations with the animals and also tromp through areas where birds nest.
Middledorf did commend Steamboat Digs Dogs for avoiding the Fox Creek area in a proposal to add more dog-related amenities in Rita Valentine Park.
Parks and Recreation Commissioners made it clear they’d be more willing to approve some areas over others.
For example, the commission appeared to throw cold water on the proposed off-leash area at River Creek Park, which is in the southern portion of the city next to the Yampa River. But they did appear open to testing an off-leash area at Whistler Park in the winter months.
Several commissioners appeared mostly supportive of approving at least some new off-leash areas. They also commended Steamboat Digs Dogs for reaching out to other park users before drafting their plans.
The city currently has only two off-leash areas for dogs, and dog advocates think adding more will lead to more leash law compliance.
The current off-leash parks include parts of Rita Valentine Park and the ponds at the Spring Creek Trail.
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