City, Steamboat Digs Dogs agree to fence Rita Valentine Park |

City, Steamboat Digs Dogs agree to fence Rita Valentine Park

Bernie, Rosalie Summerill’s rescued English springer spaniel, sniffs the grass while on an off-leash walk at Rita Valentine Park on Sunday afternoon.
Eleanor C. Hasenbeck

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The city of Steamboat Springs and Steamboat Digs Dogs have signed off on an agreement that would eventually see Rita Valentine Park developed into a fenced dog park.

“This is another great step for the dogs in the community of Steamboat,” Kathy Connell, president of Steamboat Digs Dogs, said.

The park has been designated an off-leash dog park since 2008, though it has remained mostly open space with two picnic tables and a few trails cut through the grass.

Under the new agreement, the city has agreed to partner with Steamboat Digs Dogs on grant requests to fund improvements to the park. Digs Dogs will be responsible for funding these improvements and maintaining dog-related facilities in the park, including snow removal around a future entry gate, keeping up with dog waste bags and replacing these amenities when they fail. The city will pay for water and trash removal at the park and maintain the parking lot, future bathrooms and fencing.

“It’s obviously a very high need for our community,” said Parks and Recreation Director Angela Cosby. “The Parks and Recreation Commission has discussed it very in-depth, and all parties are coming to the table saying ‘Yes, we need a fenced-in dog park.’ This is the next step in getting that fenced dog park, so we can take care of our wildlife. We can take care of our pets, and we can give owners a place to recreate as well.”

Improvements to the park

The city and Digs Dogs aim to improve the park in phases as funding is available. Even within the phases, Steamboat Digs Dogs aims to tackle some projects that are already in motion first.

“We’re looking at grant dollars as being a major contributor to completing this park,” Parks, Open Space and Trails Manager Craig Robinson said. “The bigger bang for the buck would be to try to accomplish the entire park vision — the majority of the amenities — in one fell swoop, but if the funding and grant options don’t allow for that, we’ll have to do that in different phases.”

This summer, Connell said they plan to install a water fountain for both humans and pooches surrounded by pavers, gravel to the park’s dirt area and at least one more dog waste bag dispenser.

The remaining elements of phase 1 include a shade structure, more trees, additional signage and maps, more waste bag dispensers and additional trash bags. A perimeter fence and an interior fenced space for little dogs are also included in phase 1. Connell said fencing would likely start at the southern edge of the park, with the aim of preventing conflicts between dogs and wildlife.

Phase 2 would include an additional shade structure, a bathroom and gravel on trails in the park.

The conceptual plan for the off-leash dog park calls for fencing around Rita Valentine Park.
Courtesy/John Lanterman

In fencing the dog park and improving parking at Rita Valentine, Connell said Steamboat Digs Dogs would be able to host programs that might be able to offset the cost of caring for some of the park’s amenities, such as training programs or a mixed-breed dog show. She also believes with a better park, people will be more willing to take care of and steward the public facilities at a park.

Both entities plan to pay for the park using grant funds and money raised by Steamboat Digs Dogs. Steamboat Digs Dogs is working to convert an endowed fund to a capital fund to win matching grant money for the improvements. Once these amenities are built, the remaining money will be converted into an endowed fund to help pay for maintenance.

The city can choose to contribute to the cost of construction but is not obligated to under the agreement.

At a glance

How to contribute to improvements at Rita Valentine Park. 

“The city is committing to supporting and writing grants and helping find that type of funding but isn’t currently committing to provide general fund dollars or capital fund dollars,” Parks and Recreation Director Angela Cosby said.

The city estimates that at full build out the new amenities would require an additional $25,685 annually to maintain. Cosby said this is the “low end” of what it costs to maintain a dog park, and that’s because of Digs Dogs’ contribution to helping maintain dog-related improvements.

In the meantime, and after improvements get rolling, Parks and Recreation staff hope dog owners will respect other users in areas where off-leash dogs are allowed and obey leash laws where they aren’t.

“Please pick up your poop,” Cosby said. “And if you enjoy using Rita Valentine Dog Park, please consider contributing to the fundraising efforts by Steamboat Digs Dogs.”

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

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