Work moves forward on updates to dog park at Rita Valentine Park |

Work moves forward on updates to dog park at Rita Valentine Park

Gabriel Kosmacher, a member of the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps adult conservation trail crew, works on a new soft trail that is currently being built at Rita Valentine Park in Steamboat Springs. The trail is a joint effort between the city of Steamboat Springs, Steamboat Digs Dogs and the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. The project will take about two weeks to complete, and when finished, the 6-foot-wide trail will loop around the park offering easy access and a wide path for those visiting the off-leash park.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs’ furry friends will soon have a wholly improved space to run and play as work moves forward this week on updates at the dog park at Rita Valentine Park.

The project was a longtime goal of Steamboat Digs Dogs, a volunteer-based organization dedicated to all things canine and community. In a partnership with the city of Steamboat, the project at Rita Valentine Park features updates to trails, landscaping, irrigation and more that will provide benefits to dogs and their human owners, according to city officials.

Kathy Connell, president of Steamboat Digs Dogs, said the project had been in the planning stages forever.

“We formed four years ago with a goal to create any kind of off-leash area for our more than 5,000 local dogs,” Connell said.

It was late Steamboat resident and Steamboat Springs City Council member Rita Valentine who had wished the open space on Anglers Drive be used as a place for dogs to romp freely. Thus Rita Valentine Park was established as an off-leash area for local and visiting canines.

Now, it’s time to revamp the park, according to Connell.

“It was hot; there was no water,” she said. “It really was a problem.”

The first phase of the project, paid for largely by funds raised by Steamboat Digs Dogs, will focus on the park becoming more accessible and inviting. This phase is scheduled to be completed in the next two years, with work progressing this summer and next.

Before the project moved forward, the community was asked to weigh in during public meetings that elicited “spirited discussion,” Connell said.

“Thank you to everyone who submitted comments and feedback regarding Rita Valentine Park improvements,” Steamboat Parks & Trails Manager Craig Robinson said. “We truly value the community’s insights and what they would like to see as we make our facilities the best they can possibly be.”

In addition to public meetings, more than 40 comments were posted in an online survey conducted by the city. The majority of the 326 respondents resided within city limits.

New improvements to the park include construction of a soft surface trail to replace rutted muddy trails; the addition of 25 aspen trees to provide shade; installation of an irrigation system for the new trees; construction of gravel pads to replace the muddy entry and area around the water fountain; and creation of a formal, structured entry at the parking lot and rear park entrances.

Sections of the park will be temporarily closed beginning this week while trail construction is underway. Rocky Mountain Youth Corps crews will be on site for two weeks to build the soft surface trail. A grant from Great Outdoors Colorado is covering the work completed by Rocky Mountain Youth Corps.

Late Steamboat resident Chuck Dunagin, who had owned Routt County Landscaping, donated a grove of aspen trees for the park prior to his death, according to Connell. Those were planted two weeks ago, along with installation of an irrigation system to maintain the landscape. Plans are in the works for a bench to be installed at the park in honor of Dunagin and his philanthropic efforts.

Entry fencing will be typical of what is seen in all Steamboat’s city parks with posts and redwood planks. This entry will provide an opportunity for educational signage that shares park rules to protect dogs, visitors and wildlife, according to the city.

A previously proposed project to fence the entire park perimeter will not move forward, according to city officials. Connell disregarded that plan and said the space is too good to be completely closed off.

A future phase to the project is the addition of a smaller parking area off of Hilltop Drive and the potential completion and expansion of bike trails around the park’s boundaries, which Connell said would likely be done by a different entity or organization. The goal is to have the park be multiuse, she said, with a focus on dogs and their owners.

“This has been a movement to say that dogs really are members of our community and our families,” Connell said.

To reach Bryce Martin, call 970-871-4206 or email

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