Dog issue to be revisited |

Dog issue to be revisited

Caroline Kingsley, The Park Record
Maddie Kane, right, is chased by Genevieve, middle, and Nike at the dog park at Quinn's Junction. The county has been grappling with how to manage the issue of dog owners continuing to allow their dogs to run off-leash in county parks and trails, despite county leash laws and the availability of dog parks. Photo by Tyler Cobb/Park Record.

The ongoing debate surrounding the enforcement of Summit County leash laws is being dug up once again, this time by the County Council.

"We ought to set aside some time to revisit the issue and figure out if we can do anything and what we ought to do given our limited resources," Council member Roger Armstrong said.

Reports of dogs biting runners and cross-country skiers in county parks and trails, and owners not picking up after their dogs have raised concerns among the community.

"As you know, our resources are paper thin, but I don’t want us having that discussion after something bad happens, and when the community is up in arms saying, why didn’t you think about this sooner? So I think we need to have the conversation sooner," Armstrong said.

As the county nears "bike season," dogs and bikes on trails create additional problems, Armstrong added.

"I think there’s probably a group of stakeholders we should bring together, including Park City, to have meaningful discussions to really establish a firm policy and enforcement. The enforcement part is where we’ve been stuck," he said.

In January, Mountain Trails Foundation Executive Director Charlie Sturgis proposed an odd-day-no-dogs policy in Round Valley, which received a negative response from the vast majority of local dog owners.

"They weren’t really into it," Sturgis said. "We’re increasing the numbers all the time of dogs, people and bikes. They are going to have to live up to a little higher standard in the long haul. But in the meantime, I got shot down on that one. I would say the idea is dead in the water. I think dog owners should have acted more responsibly, but so be it."

The plan was to accommodate users of Round Valley who prefer to recreate without dogs.

"If you don’t like skiing when it’s crowded and you don’t like skiing with dogs, you’d have 50 percent of the week to get out there," he said. "And it’s not like you don’t have any other place to ski with dogs. Many are underutilized and are pretty nice places to ski with your dog and not have to deal with a lot of people. So it would have made sense in not only reducing traffic in total, but also making non-dog owners see that at least they are making an effort."

Sturgis said he didn’t think the dog owners fully understand the plan.

"We were really just talking about doing it as a 90-day trial," he explained. "I would say we could do it in less, but people don’t adjust very well in the short run, especially when you’re talking about public behavior and modifying your life schedule out there. The point of it was to measure in a small way the success or non-success of a particular program."

If dog owners had been more accommodating, they would have had more political clout, he said.

"But now as some of these new rules are going to be made for managed areas, they won’t have any political clout," he said. "And basically, dog owners are breaking the law."

The county will eventually have to change how the trails are managed for everyone’s benefit, "preferably before someone gets hurt, or someone gets sued or someone sues the county because they think they should have done something about it," he said.

However, Sturgis added that there is a reality to face.

"The reality is that people aren’t obeying the leash law, so let’s make them better dog owners in the mean time," he said. "If we can do that maybe we won’t have to worry about enforcing the law. But we’ve still got a few knuckle heads out there. I don’t know what people are thinking showing up with pit bulls and rottweilers. You have to be smarter than that."

Sturgis questioned what the County Council could do to manage the leash laws without the funding.

"Are they going to make another rule they can’t manage?" he asked. "That’s basically what the existing dog law is."

Armstrong said the County Council will likely discuss the problem during a future meeting.

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