Dog owners group, City Council member push for off-leash parks |

Dog owners group, City Council member push for off-leash parks

Steamboat Springs resident Joan Donham, left, walks her dogs Ruby and Deso off-leash along Lincoln Avenue on Friday with Wendy Smith Mikelsons. Donham said she frequently will walk her dogs off-leash because they are trained and under voice command at all times.

— The city will put its reconsideration of leash laws on the fast track at the urging of a Steamboat Springs City Council member.

Given the city’s declining revenues and budget cuts, Councilman Jon Quinn said at Tuesday’s council meeting that he thinks it is ridiculous for the community service officers to spend their time “harassing pet owners.” Quinn said he was offended by an officer who recently told him he could “swim his dog” as long as he had it in on a leash.

“It’s completely out of touch. It’s unrealistic,” Quinn said. “There is no reasonable opportunity to exercise your dog” under current city regulations.

Director of Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Chris Wilson said the city’s current ordinance requires pets to be on an individual’s property, in a vehicle or on a 6-foot leash. Wilson said the ordinance is comparable to leash laws across the country in urbanized areas and is necessary to protect pets and the public.

“The city continues to enforce dog-at-large and warn and inform people who have dogs off-leash,” Wilson said.

Wilson reminded Quinn and City Council that the city is testing trial off-leash areas at at least two city parks during two- to three-hour designated time slots throughout the week.

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“It’s working out really, really good,” said Frank Cefarratti, of the Responsible Dog Ownership Group of Steamboat, or RDOGS. “People want 24 hours, though, and that’s what I’m pushing for.”

Wilson said he will look to put a reconsideration of leash laws on a May agenda for the Parks and Recreation Commission.

“They will move this up on the to-do list,” he said.

The end product could take a number of forms, from establishing the type of dedicated, 24/7 dog park Cefarratti hopes for to sticking with the current ordinance.

“It could be anything based on public comment,” Wilson said. “Typically, what we see the community supporting is leash laws in the more developed parks.”

Wilson said there is openness to relaxing the ordinance in the more natural, open space parks such as Spring Creek Park and Rita Valentine Park. Cefarratti said he agrees with Quinn that the current ordinance is too restrictive.

“I do feel it’s restrictive, but there does have to be parameters and guidelines to follow because of liabilities,” he said. “I’m optimistic about it because we are a little behind the times. : I’m just trying to get them current.”

To take advantage of the city’s trial off-leash hours, dog owners must watch a video and receive a voice control certification from the city.

For more information, call the city’s Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department at 879-4300 or Cefarratti at 846-8048.

Off-leash hours

Spring Creek Park

Noon to 2 p.m. Wednesdays

10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays

Rita Valentine Park

11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays

5 to 7 p.m. Fridays