Frank Powers: Data did not support exclusion of Blackmere as off-leash trail
I attended the City Council meeting Tuesday attracted by the agenda item, “Steamboat Digs Dogs — one-year trial period for off-leash areas.” The discussion around extending the trial period ultimately resulted in adoption of a resolution for a two-year extension of Steamboat’s off-leash trial areas, excluding Blackmere Trail.
I was intrigued by the focus on Blackmere and the detailed presentation by the Area 10 wildlife manager and his appeal to exclude Blackmere if not all the off-leash areas. While I applaud his passion and concern for the regional wildlife, his presentation did not support the exclusion of Blackmere Trail.
His summary of concerns slide lists five incidents of elk-dog interactions. The first, in 2014, refers to “apparent” injuries by dogs and does not indicate the location of the attack. The second incident in 2014 occurred in Rita Valentine, a fair distance from the Blackmere Trail. The June 2015 attack on Blackmere was clearly before the trial period began and does not indicate the circumstances or the attacker.
The July 2018 incident occurred in the “vicinity of 13th Street” but apparently not on Blackmere. The May 2018 calf attack occurred in the designated on-leash area for which the owner was cited. Seems the owner was the problem, not the dog.
All of which is to say there is no trend here indicating the off-leash program is a serious problem. And while one incident may be one too many, these few instances pale in comparison to the over 4,600 deer killed in Colorado from animal vehicle collisions in 2016 as reported by the Sterling Journal-Advocate last November.
Should we not then ban motor vehicles from our highways? I believe in a sound argument but only if supported by valid data.
I was disappointed that no one on the council challenged the wildlife manager or at least questioned his argument. By resolution, it appears Blackmere will remain in its off-leash capacity until Jan 1, 2019. But at the moment, there is no acceptable replacement for a trail that offers as much off-leash opportunity as the other locations combined.
As Steamboat Digs Dogs prepares suggestions for alternatives to Blackmere, perhaps the council and Parks and Recreation Commission can revisit their interpretations of an acceptable off-leash trail.
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