Patrick and Christy Browning: Don’t enforce people out of the parks
This is not about the dogs. OK, dogs might be mentioned, but this is about the people and the parks.
Our home borders Whistler Park. The park and the school district property are literally our backyard.
For 24 years we have watched from our back porch hundreds and hundreds of people spending leisure time in the park every day, every week, every season, year around.
If you do not live right next to a park, you may have no idea the number and scope of activities that go on there.
Oh sure, Whistler Park has fields and a playground … and they are utilized all the time for their intended purpose. That’s what parks are for.
What you may not see is the young families walking with a baby in a stroller, a toddler following behind, and a dog sniffing around. And, over the years, you’d notice that baby on a tricycle, and the toddler has moved up to a strider, and then both of them on two wheelers.
You’d see small groups of walkers gathering together to converse while the kids laugh and play, and the dogs play some kind of canine chase game. You’d see golfers practicing in the springtime, mountain bikers building a jump along Walton Creek, adolescents nonchalantly strolling with their dogs toward the creek to do whatever they do when nobody is looking. And, you’d occasionally see people surprised by a moose, a deer, or a fox trotting by.
Our park is a landing zone for the hang gliders, the place where dad teaches the kids how to fly a kite or shoot off a hobby rocket or learn to fish. It’s Nordic skiers and snowshoers. It’s a snow-packed path so narrow that people have to walk in single file. It’s picnics and birthday parties and crazy full moon parties. The daycare services bring the kids all summer long.
That’s the happy side.
Here’s the sad side:
This summer, the summer of 2016, the number of families, activities, parties and gatherings have greatly diminished. The people are largely gone. The early morning dog walkers are gone. The midday moms with preschool kids strolling with the dog are gone. The after-work-before-dinner crowd is no longer a crowd. And amazingly, when Saturday and Sunday were always big days at the park, many users no longer appear.
The animal control vehicle trolls the residential streets surrounding the park at very low speed, looking between the houses for violators in the park. The officers are doing the job they were hired for.
Law-abiding dog owners are now keeping their dogs on leash, making a quick dash around the perimeter of the park and then heading back to the house or the car. The dog doesn’t even get out of breath.
Of course, there are some brave (or indignant) individuals who show up to walk their dogs off leash, throwing the ball or stick so the dog can get some exercise. Rebels.
Sadly, it is apparent that the easiest way to avoid the dog catcher is just to stay away.
To the good citizens who don’t like dogs or are afraid of dogs or whose housing won’t allow dogs and to the dog committee striving to find a solution and to the police chief and to the animal controllers, please don’t deliberate, regulate, enforce or intimidate the people to the point where they will choose to not utilize Steamboat’s most prized amenities, our parks.
Patrick and Christy Browning
Law-abiding Steamboat Springs citizens since 1974
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