The tax increases the county wanted to impose to make up a shortfall caused by overspending the budget in recent years have been put on hold by citizen intervention. This has led to dire threats of having to lay off police and other staffers. At the same time, the county has allocated money to build a dog park in Willow Creek Park. I suspect that shortly after this opens they will ban dogs from other areas of the park despite the fact that on weekdays during school hours almost all park users are walking dogs. I have yet to meet any dog owner who is enthusiastic about the dog park.
There are a number of problems with limiting dogs to the dog park:
1. A large number of the dog walkers originate at the end of the park farthest from the proposed dog park. Will they now be required to drive?
2. The proposed dog park will contain the current pond. This will be a hazard in the weeks that the ice is forming and again while it is melting. And, of course, I doubt that the dogs will be welcomed by the ice skaters and hockey players.
3. Experience elsewhere suggests that constrictive dog parks lead to dog fights -- a phenomenon that rarely happens when dogs are unrestricted.
4. When the weather is as cold as it has been for the last several weeks, I don't see people standing still in a dog park or tramping through several inches of unpacked snow.
Round Valley, which taxpayers voted to purchase some years ago, is also moving to exclude dogs even though dog walkers greatly outnumber other users year round. Am I being paranoid when I interpret the recent suggestion to limit dog walking to alternate days as just the thin end of the wedge? If the alternate-day ban is implemented, I have little doubt that in a couple of years time skiers and mountain bikers will declare it such a success that a complete ban on dogs will be recommended. In the meantime, will skiers and mountain bikers be banned the other days?
I start my walks at either the Cove Trailhead or the Old Ranch Trailhead. From either of these it's a 20-minute uphill hike to reach any of the trails used for cross-country skiing which, incidentally, have only been groomed for the last three or four years. Many of the trails have been there longer than I have lived here. Charlie Sturgis's other argument, which was echoed in an editorial, was that dogs are chasing foxes and small wildlife "all the time" and will drive them away -- presumably to some of the thousands of pristine acres within 5 miles of the valley. Are there any facts/studies to support this claim?
Frankly, I think this is pure smoke. The only small wildlife I have seen in the valley in 20 years are snakes, birds, and two or three foxes or coyotes.
In my opinion, a far better solution to banning dogs would be to assign trails to single use. Where necessary -- on Cammie's Trail, for example, which is the only place I encounter skiers -- an additional track could be cut exclusively for walkers. There's plenty of space.
Finally, let's remember that skiers use Round Valley for less than three months each year. Dog walkers are there 365 days each year.