City, Steamboat Digs Dogs take steps to fence Rita Valentine Park |

City, Steamboat Digs Dogs take steps to fence Rita Valentine Park

Raphael plays in the snow at Rita Valentine Park in 2016. (File photo by Scott Franz)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In a move Steamboat Digs Dogs President Kathy Connell called “one small step for dog kind,” the city of Steamboat Springs and the local group will work on a plan for improvements at Rita Valentine Park, including building a fenced dog park.

On Tuesday, the Steamboat Springs City Council directed staff to formalize an agreement with Steamboat Digs Dogs to identify funding for improvements and maintenance responsibilities at the dog park, which is located off Anglers Drive.

City Council also agreed to sign off on Steamboat Digs Dogs’ request to convert its endowed fund to a capital fund, which will allow the organization to use that money for new construction.

At a glance

The following areas allow dogs off leash permanently and under the city’s trial program:

  • Rita Valentine Park
  • Whistler Park (seasonal restrictions in some areas)
  • Spring Creek Lower Pond
  • Lower Spring Creek Trail
  • Butcherknife Trail (time of day restrictions)

For maps and more information about seasonal and time restrictions, visit the city’s website at

Connell is excited because she believes getting the project off the ground will get people engaged in improving dog infrastructure in the city. She said in parks, such as Whistler, where she’s seeing more community engagement with Steamboat Digs Dogs volunteers and Animal Control officers, she’s also noticing fewer abandoned piles of poo.

“We’re trying to really up the quality of dog ownership and dog responsibility,” Connell said. “In order to do that, we have to engage the community, not enrage them. That’s kind of a theme of Steamboat Digs Dogs.”

Steamboat Digs Dogs’ conceptual design for the Rita Valentine Park is split into two phases. Phase 1 would include fencing about 15 acres of the 38-acre park, enlarging the parking lot, adding waste receptacles, water and benches and improving the trails at an estimated cost of $169,483. Phase 2 is still under development but would include additional fencing, shelters and trails at an estimated cost of $126,312.

What they can get done depends on the funding, Connell said. She said Steamboat Digs Dogs’ first priorities are improving parking and adding a water feature. Park visitors frequently park in the surrounding neighborhood, causing problems for those who live there.

“In this process, we’ve always wanted to walk before we run,” she said. “The park is really utilized now — heavily utilized — so we have to look at the impacts of the increased people, and we have to be extremely sensitive to the neighbors.”

Connell said the water feature has already been purchased, and Steamboat Digs Dogs hopes to get it installed after the snow melts and before summer hits.

Conceptual design courtesy of the city of Steamboat Springs.

Steamboat Digs Dogs has about $65,000 in its endowed fund at the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, which is slated to be shifted into a capital fund. The organization has an additional $28,586 in other accounts, according to the presentation shown in Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

On the city’s side, staff would seek grants for the project and request funding through the capital improvement project process, according to the presentation. There is also about $25,000 in revenue collected from animal code violations that has been set aside to be used on dog park improvements.

Through the agreement, the city and Steamboat Digs Dogs will work through the maintenance of the park and the new amenities.

“We recognize that, and we are willing to participate in the maintenance of things, but there are some things that we humbly believe are a city function,” Connell said.

Connell said she hopes Steamboat Digs Dogs will take the lead on building and maintaining the dog-related elements, such as poop dispensers and the gravel that will serve as an entryway into the park.

To view the city council’s discussion on this topic, visit

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

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