Park City unleashed lots of confusion with dog-friendly spaces | ParkRecord.com

Park City unleashed lots of confusion with dog-friendly spaces

Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

Park City officials apparently unleashed lots of confusion with the recent opening of two places where dogs are allowed to run off leashes.

Mayor Jack Thomas and the Park City Council on Thursday night held an unscheduled discussion about the off-leash areas that centered on the confusion that has continued since their opening in mid-January.

The elected officials did not engage in a lengthy discussion about the off-leash areas, one encompassing City Hall-owned open space in Round Valley and the other covering a part of the field outside the Park City Library, but the comments illustrated that people headed into the two spaces are unclear about the rules.

City Councilor Becca Gerber noted the confusion, saying people in the off-leash areas have become defensive. She suggested people treat others with respect. Andy Beerman, another member of the City Council, said there has been unspecified confusing items in the media about off-leash areas and more publicity of the rules is needed. City Councilor Tim Henney also noted the media coverage and said City Hall should quickly explain things about the off-leash areas to clarify the confusion.

City Councilor Cindy Matsumoto, meanwhile, indicated there is confusion about the expansiveness of the elected officials’ decision to create the off-leash areas.

"All of Park City is a dog park," Matsumoto said, apparently explaining an erroneous line of thinking by some in Park City.

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Matsumoto added that leash laws continue to apply.

The off-leash areas debuted in mid-January with widespread support from dog lovers who argued for a large-acreage place where they could run their pets. The Round Valley off-leash area is especially notable as it covers approximately 1,400 acres in a place where dogs ran off leashes for years.

In creating the off-leash areas, City Hall put some restrictions on dogs, though. A crucial one is that a dog must be under what is known as voice and sight control at all times. Dogs are also prohibited from attacking someone or other dogs.

Park City officials and not-for-profit organizations involved in the discussions about the off-leash areas early on talked about the need for an educational process as the areas opened. There has been some educational or awareness efforts since before the off-leash areas opened, but it appears there will be more shortly.

In an interview, Heinrich Deters, the trails and open space manager at City Hall, said the municipal government plans to create videos with information about the off-leash areas and explaining the rules. He anticipates the videos will have a touch of humor.

Deters said the videos could show the differences between a dog owner who is following the rules and one who is not. He said a dog owner following the rules could be shown with a pet under voice and sight control while one who is not following the rules would be shown with a dog that is running at large, as an example. Deters said another scene could show a dog owner following the rules by keeping a dog on a leash at a trailhead and another one not following the rules by having a dog off a leash at a trailhead.

The videos could be made by late February while public-service announcements explaining the off-leash areas could be ready by the middle of the month, he said.

"You want to reach out. You want to help people," Deters said.

City Hall is preparing to seat a task force that will consider topics related to the off-leash areas. Applications are due Feb. 12. More information about the task force is posted on the City Hall website, http://www.parkcity.org . Select the topic in the ‘Latest News’ section of the front page of the site. The direct link is: http://www.parkcity.org/Home/Components/News/News/4062/23?backlist=%2f.