As dog complaints continue, Park City trails advocate calls for compromise
June 2, 2015
As complaints about loose dogs continue in Park City, a leading trails advocate recently urged City Hall leaders to craft a compromise that could involve certain times and locations when dogs could be off leash.
Charlie Sturgis, the executive director of the Mountain Trails Foundation, appeared in front of Mayor Jack Thomas and the Park City Council amid a string of dog-related cases during the spring. The elected officials were not scheduled to hold a detailed discussion about the topic.
Sturgis said he does not oppose the leash law, saying he supports "necessary enforcement" and prosecution, but he is concerned with strict enforcement of the rule. Dogs are required to be on leashes when they are in public places in Park City. He described an idea to identify some places as high-enforcement areas and others as low-enforcement areas as he called Park City a "dog-centric community."
In an interview afterward, Sturgis described possible locations for high enforcement and low enforcement. Places where high enforcement of the leash law could occur under his idea include City Park, Main Street and the stretch of the Rail Trail between the Bonanza Drive intersection and S.R. 248. Low-enforcement areas could include Round Valley and trailheads that are less heavily traveled, Sturgis said.
"I think there’s a lot of different ways to accommodate the needs and minimize the impacts," Sturgis said.
Sturgis said he has received email correspondences about dog issues, including ideas for "reasonable accommodations" for off-leash dogs.
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The mayor and City Councilors primarily listened. Cindy Matsumoto, a City Councilor, mentioned an idea for an off-leash area in Round Valley, a popular swath of open space. It appears the elected officials will hold a discussion on June 18, but it is not clear what aspects of the debate about dogs will be addressed.
The City Hall appearance by Sturgis came as the Park City Police Department continued to field complaints about off-leash dogs. There has been a series of reports in the spring ranging from worries when a dog is seen off a leash to dog bites.
Dogs have regularly been seen off leash in Park City for years, with trails and the field outside the Park City Library and Education Center being some of the places where loose dogs are often spotted. There have been ongoing complaints over the years, but they have seemed more pronounced recently than at many times in the past.
Sturgis said in an interview a widely publicized dog bite in the spring involving Dave Hanscom, a well-known Park City resident, has influenced the discussion this year. The bite occurred while he was bicycling on the Rail Trail and required 23 stitches, The Park Record reported at the time.
The Police Department last week continued to log reported violations of the leash law. At least two dog bites were reported in Park City last week as well. According to Police Department logs, someone reported a dog bit two people in the same incident. The case was logged on May 25 at 11:43 a.m. in the vicinity of Fairway Hills Court, a small street in Park Meadows. The bites did not break the skin, the police were told. Leash-law violations were reported in places like City Park and the Rail Trail.