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You, your dog may get room to run

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado
Avon is designing a dog park in Wildridge after residents told the town they have nowhere to play with their dogs without leashes.
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AVON ” Like teams of ninjas in a James Bond movie, Patrick Chilton trains his dog Ulee in secret.

As secret as can be, at least. Sometimes, while walking through his neighborhood in Wildridge or in Nottingham Park, he unhooks the leash and checks how much control he has over Ulee.

“We’ll go on a whole walk without a leash, and he doesn’t budge from two feet from my side,” Chilton said. “I always try to avoid people, but if we see someone, I say, ‘Stay,’ and he stays.”

Soon, Chilton may not have to be covert in his training. Avon town planners are designing a dog park in Wildridge that could be built later this year.

“That would make things a lot easier for serious dog owners in Avon,” Chilton said.

Avon has long considered building a dog park, but a renewed interest was sparked after a heated public debate on loosening the town’s leash laws.

While town councilors decided not to change the law, they heard the testimony from several residents on how important exercise and off-leash training are to a dog. Councilors asked for a dog park where owners would have open and leash-free space.

A preliminary plan was presented to the council on Tuesday.

Planners chose a spot just below Oneal Spur Pocket Park in Wildridge that should be easily accessible but far enough away from distractions that could lure dogs out of the park. Public Works Director Bob Reed said that one of the biggest complaints of dog parks is dogs leaving the area when they see kids playing, joggers and bicyclists.

Reed suggested using up the .219 acres of available space.

The park would have a small leash-and-unleash zone and would be designed mainly for dog training and socializing. Planners also asked the council to consider installing a water fountain with an attached pet fountain on the bottom.

The park could cost $13,000 or more, depending on its size and whether it has a fountain.

Rules proposed for the park include:

– Restricting owners to two dogs a visit,

– Holding owners responsible for injuries inflicted by their dogs,

– Requiring owners to be in verbal and visible control of their dogs,

– Always having a leash on hand,

– Barring dangerous dogs from the park,

– No children under 12,

– Children 13-18 must be accompanied by an adult.

One point of debate could be the hours of the park. Reed suggested keeping it open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. to accommodate people who get home late from work, while Councilwoman Amy Phillips suggested keeping the park open only from dawn to dusk.

Other dog parks in the Vail Valley have had mixed reviews.

Bighorn Park in East Vail is highly used and is seen as a success by town planners because of very responsible people who follow and enforce the rules, Reed said.

“The neighborhood takes a lot of ownership in it, actually polices it for us,” said Todd Oppenheimer, capital projects manager for the Town of Vail. “They want to keep it. If they see somebody not picking up after their dog, they approach them, usually politely, then they hand them a bag. Some of them actually go and pick up after other dogs.”

Stephen’s Park in West Vail is a different story, mainly because residents in that area just haven’t stepped up, Oppenheimer said.

“The maintenance guys say it’s like a mine field out there,” Oppenheimer said. “There just isn’t a group there that watches over it like they do in Bighorn.”

A dog park opened in Eagle in February 2006, but it was reported in September that the park was lightly used.

Reed plans to hold community meetings in Wildridge and polling residents on how much they intend to use the park.

Councilman Dave Dantas said he probably wouldn’t use the dog park and questioned whether other people would use it if they didn’t live in Wildridge.

Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.


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