Park City dog lovers howl for a large off-leash area | ParkRecord.com

Park City dog lovers howl for a large off-leash area

Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

Dog lovers on Thursday night urged Park City leaders to consider creating a large off-leash area, packing the room at a City Council meeting as they covered a range of issues in support of setting aside space where dogs would be allowed to run free.

It was among the largest crowds at a City Council meeting in recent months, and nearly all of the people in the room seemed to be in support of the efforts. More than 20 people spoke to Mayor Jack Thomas and the City Council. The speakers in favor of the idea of creating an off-leash area outnumbered those with concerns by a wide margin. Many of the people who did not speak appeared to be on the side of the supporters.

The City Council was not scheduled to make a decision, but some of the elected officials indicated they supported the idea of a large off-leash area. The elected officials are expected to hold a more detailed discussion in early January.

It seems almost certain that the upcoming talks will center on Round Valley, a large swath of open space stretching out from the edge of Park Meadows. City Hall owns vast acreage in Round Valley, a popular place for hikers, bicyclists, cross-country skiers and snowshoers, and dogs are regularly seen off leashes.

A leash law is currently in effect across Park City. The dog park at Quinn’s Junction is the only public place where dogs are allowed to be off leashes. The dog park, though, situated in a remote location from neighborhoods, has not drawn users in large numbers. It has also been criticized for its smallish size and lack of amenities. The supporters of an off-leash area say they want a large tract of land where dogs are able to run free.

The speakers on Thursday touched on numerous topics, describing an overriding wish that Park City become a friendlier place for dogs. They discussed the possibility of setting places where the leash law would strictly enforced and where enforcement would be limited, mentioned an idea that dogs be leashed at trailheads and said there should be off-leash areas along cross-country skiing trails.

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"I think we need to keep the dogs in Park City," Peter Tomai told the elected officials.

Carolyn Frankenburg argued that the amount of space set aside for off-leash dogs should be based on the amount of support.

Others who spoke wanted dogs to be allowed on City Hall buses, claimed a small number of people spurred the discussion about leashes, said leashed dogs create a safety issue on single-track trails and said perhaps there could be increased fines if a dog is found to be aggressive. The elected officials were told an off-leash dog ahead of the owner could alert the person if there is a moose.

There was a smattering of concern, though. Bill Humbert told the mayor and City Council some dog owners are not responsible and recounted that a dog off a leash once jumped on him in Round Valley.

"What if I’m terrified of dogs," Humbert said.

City Councilors indicated they wanted options explored for Round Valley. They also signaled they could consider creating an off-leash area at the field outside the Park City Library and Education Center. The field is another place where dogs are regularly seen off leashes. The discussions could resume as early as Jan. 7 with a more detailed review of potential locations for off-leash areas. The elected officials could also discuss forming a task force to study the issue at that meeting.