Park City readies to open off-leash areas | ParkRecord.com

Park City readies to open off-leash areas

Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

Tim Akers skis with his leashed dog, Jackson, on a trail in Round Valley on Monday. Park City plans to open approximately 1,400 acres in Round Valley to off-leash dogs on Friday. Half of the field outside the Park City Library will also be made an off-leash area as a result of a recent decision by the Park City Council. Jake Shane/Park Record

The two newly created off-leash areas in Park City go into effect on Friday, opening up vast acreage to people who want to enjoy the open space with their dogs.

The Park City Council last week approved an off-leash area covering approximately 1,400 acres of City Hall land in Round Valley and another one occupying half of the field outside the Park City Library. Both have long been popular spots for people to run their dogs off leashes for years even though the practice was forbidden through leash laws. Heinrich Deters, the trails and open space manager at City Hall, said signs to post at the two sites have been ordered and staffers intend to install them on Thursday or Friday.

Deters said he anticipates there will be questions about off-leash areas, prompting discussions between City Hall and three not-for-profit organizations involved in trails and open space issues. Deters said a meeting was held on Monday involving himself and leaders from Mountain Trails Foundation, Utah Open Lands and Summit Land Conservancy. The discussion centered on methods to educate people about the off-leash areas and to talk about outreach efforts, Deters said.

A key point in the educational process will almost certainly be a detailed explanation of the restrictions of the off-leash areas. In creating the two locations for dogs to be off leashes, the City Council required that dogs be under "voice and sight control" at all times. Other laws regarding dogs will be in effect in the off-leash areas as well, including a prohibition on dog attacks and a requirement that dog waste be cleaned up. Dogs are also not allowed to chase people, other dogs or wildlife.

Some land in Round Valley was not included in the off-leash area. A portion of that land is outside the Park City limits and other parts are privately held by the Osguthorpe family.

Charlie Sturgis, the executive director of Mountain Trails Foundation, said educating people about the off-leash areas, including their locations, will be "the biggest challenge."

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He said the off-leash areas create expectations for dog owners who use the spaces. People must have a leash and a bag for dog waste with them and they must make sure dogs are leashed as they enter and leave the off-leash areas, such as at trailheads, Sturgis said.

"There is a level of expectation that comes with this privilege," Sturgis said.

Sturgis, meanwhile, said there are concerns about overcrowding in Round Valley, which is a popular place for hiking and bicycling in the summer and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. The off-leash status of Round Valley might draw people from the Salt Lake Valley and Wasatch County, Sturgis said.

"It could have the effect of focusing people in Round Valley." Sturgis said.

Sturgis said he wants people to keep dogs on trails in Round Valley, saying there is wildlife in the acreage. He prefers dog owners yield to others in Round Valley, a vast area stretching outward from the edge of Park Meadows toward Quinn’s Junction and the Snyderville Basin.

"The ideal place for dogs is on the trails themselves," Sturgis said.