Grace Powers: Trials need specific criteria to provide clear direction
The Steamboat Pilot & Today’s front-page story, “In the dog house …,” on Feb. 18 prompted me to share my “non-dog-owner’s” perspective on Steamboat’s leashing debate. I attended my first City Council meeting on Sept. 4 last year and observed the council’s vote — following prolonged debate — to end the off-leash trial on Blackmer. This particular area seems especially important to dog owners who have few, if any, options for exercising with their pets during the winter.
My question then, and still today, is “what were the trial criteria?” In my professional experience, any “trial” is embarked upon after establishing a clear set of objective criteria for evaluating success or failure. From observing the meeting on Sept. 4, 2018, it seemed there were no criteria established and certainly no objective measures considered.
The vote to end the trial appeared to be influenced by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife presentation that made the unconvincing case that there was some correlation between off-leash dogs and harm to wild animals. I would argue that five incidents over as many years does not support that assertion.
In fact, the data presented by CPW actually made clear there was no such correlation. It was not even apparent that any of the five incidents occurred in the off-leash trial areas.
So, what was the point? Was the City Council just determined to be swayed by the three attendees who spoke the loudest and ignore the larger number of their constituency who clearly favored continuing the off-leash program?
If there was any objective data presented, it was the survey results that indicated 89 percent of 180 respondents supported the off-leash program. Only 1 percent said “no.”
In the future, I respectively suggest that any trials be designed with a clear and agreed set of measurement criteria upfront. Put in context, the thousands of wildlife killed and maimed by automobiles and hunters every year make the five incidents that apparently swayed the council seem almost ridiculous.
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