Park City task force starts to paw at canine issues |

Park City task force starts to paw at canine issues

A Park City task force started to paw at issues related to dogs and off-leash areas at its first-ever meeting on Monday, broaching numerous topics as it began work on the highly charged subjects.

The task force was formed as part of a Park City Council decision to create off-leash areas in Round Valley and part of the field outside the Park City Library. The task force is expected to cover a wide range of issues, including the potential of setting aside additional places for dog parks or off-leash areas as well as places where dogs could be prohibited. The task force could also explore whether so-called high-enforcement places should be established.

The task force, though, seemed to focus on broader issues at the meeting on Monday. It did not appear that the members made significant progress toward crafting policies or recommendations during the meeting. The task force members introduced themselves and held a brainstorming session. The roster includes representatives from stakeholder groups as well as members of the general public. Tim Henney, a member of the City Council, was in attendance. One member of the general public was in the audience.

"They love their dogs like they love their kids," said Charlie Sturgis, a task force member who represents Mountain Trails Foundation.

At one point of the meeting, the task force was asked to define some of the problems regarding dogs in Park City. The members mentioned topics like irresponsible dog owners, a fear of dogs, safety concerns and whether people understand the rules of the off-leash areas. The task force also noted there are other people using the off-leash areas without dogs.

Some of the other problems the task force cited included etiquette, the impact on wildlife, the possibility of crowds and, as described by members, an attitude of entitlement. The task force also spoke briefly about off-leash dogs approaching those on leashes and the safety problem created when off-leash dogs are in a recreation facility. At least one person mentioned a worry about the pack mentality of dogs while someone also spoke about the potential impact on the watershed.

"Inconsideration of other users," said Ed Parigian, one of the Park City residents appointed to the task force representing the general public.

Parigian also said fines for dog bites and attacks should be set high.

Heinrich Deters, City Hall’s trails and open space manager, at one point encouraged the task force to discuss the benefits of off-leash areas. The response, though, did not appear as robust as at other moments. At another time on Monday, there was a call to focus on the main topic as some of the task force members held side discussions.

The task force mentioned places that could be considered as locations where dogs could be prohibited. They included playgrounds, sledding areas and unspecified places that are used heavily by others. They also raised the idea of creating a program allowing dogs on unidentified trails every other day. Volunteers could be dispatched to Round Valley with information about the rules and dog licensing, they said.

Henney, meanwhile, said some people in Park City are connecting the debut of the off-leash areas to bad behavior involving dogs elsewhere in the city. The connection seems odd, he said.

The City Council is tentatively scheduled to receive an update in April while a presentation to the elected officials is anticipated in mid-June. The City Council is scheduled to evaluate the off-leash areas, which were created as part of a pilot program, in the summer.

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