FIDOS Summer 2000 Newsletter
FIDOS Home Page
Added on: July 14, 2000
Of the list of purposes of Open Space given in the charter, dog walking would fall under "passive recreation." While the charter does not assign priorities to the uses, there are those who would like to assign top priority to preservation of natural fauna, flora, and wildlife habitat. Actually, we agree with this attitude, except that there are those who would push the concept to the extreme, jeopardizing the activity that is so important to us. We therefore watch closely movements that could affect Open Space policy, such as the proposed Mountain Parks-Open Space merger. Although the idea of a merger was initially motivated by a desire to achieve greater efficiencies in the city, it now appears the concept is being largely driven by a powerful lobby emphasizing preservation of Open Space lands.
The controversy surrounding the merger has been represented as hinging upon the personalities of Jim Crain and Ann Wichmann, directors, respectively, of Open Space and Mountain Parks, but we see it as a conflict between management philosophies, with Crain representing an emphasis on preservation and Wichmann representing a balance between recreation and preservation and an openness to public input.
When, in March 1999, City Manager Ron Secrist proposed two options for consolidation, both involving the reassignment of Crain and Wichmann to new positions, the lobby, spearheaded by Mike Figgs and former state representative Ruth Wright, turned out in force to object to reassigning Crain. Again in January, when a report released by an independent auditing company also recommended new management, they voiced their opposition.
On March 8 of this year, Mike Figgs and Ruth Wright presented their own proposal for the reorganization, which included the possibility of a creating a co-directorship to address "potential personnel conflicts." The proposal did not explicitly mention Crain; however, in a subsequent letter to the Camera (March 30), Figgs and Wright emphasized their intention that both directors be chosen from the Open Space Department.
Two weeks later, at the March 21 Council meeting, Ron Secrist presented a proposal for getting on with the merger, containing many of the elements of the Figgs Wright plan, including the possibility of a co-directorship. Secrist's proposal did not mention Crain either, but stated, "As City Manager, I continue to believe that a combined work group is better served with leadership, unencumbered with previous direct involvement in disagreements, loyalties, or emotions; however, feedback … reveals that the issue of leadership, perhaps more than any other issue, seems to be the largest stumbling block to achieving positive movement to resolution of this issue."
The next day the Camera quoted Secrist as saying Jim Crain "would remain in his job." and again on April 5 that Jim Crain would "stay in charge of land acquisition." However, when we questioned Secrist directly about the leadership of the reorganized department, he responded by e-mail that "the co-directorship would be determined…during the transition period."
The transition period refers to the period from August 2000 till January 2001, during which time a "transition team," under the direction of new Deputy City Manager Chris Andersen, is to work out the details of the reorganized department. As part of this process, any Mountain Parks lands that are to be transferred to the new department will require a majority vote of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. Earlier, this might have created a sticking point for the merger process, but key positions on the board had expired and were filled in March by individuals supportive of the merger.
In what appears to be an effort to separate recreation and preservation, the Wright-Figgs proposal recommends against transferring to the new department certain Mountain Parks lands such as Chautauqua Meadow and the top of Flagstaff on the grounds that "the current intensive recreational uses conflict with the Open Space Charter and Mission."
FIDOS has negotiated dog issues with Mike Figgs before, and he has earned our respect as a fair and reasonable person. Still, Figgs is not the only player in this process. This is a procedure that bears watching.
At a public meeting on Thursday, May 4, 2000 the Boulder County Commissioners voted unanimously to extend the existing ban of dogs on North Foothills Opens Space (NFOS), as the Hall and Heil Ranch Open Space areas are collectively known, for five years, but with an amendment, proposed by Commissioner Danish, mandating that over the next year staff investigate the viability of a time-sharing plan allowing dogs limited, on-lead access to the Hall Ranch one or two days per week. The commissioner's decision to extend the ban on dogs was the culmination of a three-month long process consisting of three public meetings, submission to the commissioners of a petition signed by 160 Lyons-area residents advocating lifting of the existing dog ban, unanimous passage of a resolution by the Lyons Board of Trustees advocating on-lead dog access to at least one trail on the Hall Ranch on a trial basis, a written pledge by Lyons FIDOS members to maintain a clean trailhead and to exert peer pressure for leash law compliance, a guest opinion article in the Longmont Times--Call pointing out the unfairness of the proposed ban, an appeal to the commissioners by Lyons Mayor Dick Hinshaw for limited dog access to the Hall Ranch, and a vigorous letter writing campaign.
When Boulder County Parks and Open Space (BCPOS) staff formally recommended making the dog ban permanent at the January 31 meeting of the North Foothills Open Space Advisory Committee (NFOSAC), a citizen's stakeholder group, about half of the stakeholders opposed the recommendation. On March 9, the Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee (POSAC) slightly softened the recommendation, voting 10 to 2 to recommend a 5-year renewal of the ban to the County Commissioners. In the process, some POSAC members admonished the BCPOS staff for their obviously biased presentation. When on May 4 the Commissioners heard comment on the issue, several hours of public comment was about equally divided for and against the ban. Some of the arguments presented by the BCPOS staff during this process, with our rebuttals, follow:
Even though county-wide leash law compliance had increased from 55% in 1996 to 77% in 1999, BCPOS staff was still not satisfied, claiming that the non-compliance rate implies nearly 1000 unleashed dogs on Hall Ranch yearly. (Estimates of the number of dogs off lead per year are meaningless without some knowledge of the percentage of off-lead dogs that actually chase wildlife. A 1997 study by Mark Bekoff, a wildlife biologist at the University of Colorado, suggests that this number can be as low as a few percent. When this factor is taken into account, it appears that off lead dogs pose no more of a threat to wildlife than do hikers or bikers who leave the trail and traipse cross-country.)
BCPOS biologist Brennan suggested that dogs could transmit diseases, such as rabies, to wildlife. (In a telephone conversation with FIDOS member Haydee Kuner, Dr. John Pape of the Colorado Department of Health stated that the last recorded case of rabies in a dog in the state of Colorado was in 1975.)
BCPOS sited surveys, such as a 1997 county-wide telephone survey, in which 84% of telephone respondents agreed that "closing selected trails to dogs in sensitive areas to minimize impacts to wildlife and the ecosystem" is very important (60%) or important (24%). (Had the wording been more explicit, for example, "Do you believe that dogs should be banned from all trails on both the Hall and Heil Ranches, given that the trails have already been laid out to avoid the most wildlife-sensitive areas, and that other users are allowed access? " the survey result would likely have been very different.)
Since trails on Hall and Heil Ranches currently represent only 16% of linear trail mileage on BCPOS, only a small portion of trails will be closed to dogs. (Hall and Heil Ranches represent between a third and a half of the land area open for hiking in the county. Moreover, this area is unquestionably the most scenic and beautiful of any County properties. Finally, when the trails planned for the Heil ranch are completed, the percentage of trail miles closed to dogs in Boulder County will increase sharply.)
Some people would like at least one area where they will not encounter dogs. (FIDOS asked for on-lead access to only one trail on Hall Ranch, leaving open many options to those wishing to avoid dogs. Moreover, the time sharing plan suggested by FIDOS addresses this point as well as that of the shortage of rangers available to enforce the leash law. With time sharing, rangers need be present at Hall Ranch only on days when dogs are allowed.)
It seems particularly unfair to deny Lyons dog owners access to even a single trail on Hall Ranch, which is literally in their back yards. We hope that the time sharing concept will produce a more reasonable compromise.
FIDOS sponsored the second annual International Wildlife Film Festival in March at the Boulder Theater, where we provided a buffet and screened four prize-winning wildlife films. Our thanks to the following individuals and businesses who contributed to the event: Malcomb Fresh Repack, Nick-N-Willy's, Quizno's, Old Chicago, Alex at Colorado Canines, Brian at Rocky Mountain K-9 Accessories, Canine Campovers, James and Andrea Merryman, Dog City, Hallman House, Bart's CD Cellar, The Garkie Group, Nature's Own Imagination, the International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula, and the staff at the Boulder Theater.
Those of you who are unable to join us for the scheduled pick-ups may consider doing your ourn monthly clean-up in your neighborhood or favorite trail. Let us know how it goes so we may give credit in our next newsletter. Never doubt the positive impact your efforts have in promoting good will toward dogs and their humans. Call 303-447-3436 for a FIDOS bucket and utensils. Please refer to the schedule on the FIDOS Activities page.
You've met them on the trails—people who don't like dogs. The frowning face or snide comment to their companion, meant to be overheard. Or perhaps even an "educational" lecture on the city's dog ordinances.
We are suggesting the next time one of these incidents occurs, do something selfish (self-serving)--smile and apologize. Why do we call this selfish? Because being able to walk our dogs off leash on Boulder's beautiful Mountain Parks and Open Space trails is a wonderful privilege--one that will become literally priceless in the near future. As usage increases, people are going to be looking for rationalizations for eliminating others to give themselves more room.
So what can we do to preserve this valuable privilege? The most important things are easy and cost nothing. Keep your dog away from young children, the aged, and people with babies. Be sensitive to other dogs that may not want to be approached, such as shy dogs or old dogs, and especially very small dogs. Regardless of how careful you are, there will be some occurrences that you did not plan. So when rover jumps on someone's new running suit with his muddy paws, defuse the situation by apologizing.
FIDOS has never charged a membership fee, because frankly you are more important to us is than your money. We need your phone calls, letters, faxes, and e-mail to local government officials, and we need your presence and comments at public meetings. Our financial requirements are not great, but we do need a small operating budget. It costs about $700 to print and mail an issue of the newsletter, and we occasionally need to purchase an advertisement in a local paper or to send an extra mailing to a subgroup of our members. So far, FIDOS has survived on contributions from generous members, and recently we have experimented with fund-raising events, such as the Oct-Rover-Fest and the International Wildlife Film Festival. At any rate, the FIDOS board is devoting time and energy to raising money for the organization that could be used for more urgent purposes
For these reasons, we have decided to institute a yearly membership fee, in hope that this will ease our finances a bit. Because we want to introduce FIDOS to all dog owners, new members may still join for no charge, but for present members, we are requesting an annual membership contribution in the range of $5 – $25 (per household), leaving it to you to decide what you can afford. Contributions of $5 or more will be rewarded with a FIDOS decal, and contributions of $15 with a FIDOS tee shirt.
The Open Space charter lists passive recreation as one of the purposes of Open Space, but does not give a definition of the term. Without a vote of the citizens, the Open Space Department does not have the power to modify the charter; however, in March the Open Space Department published the first draft of its Visitor Plan, with the stated purpose of establishing "a process for determining what passive recreational uses would be allowed on Open Space and how those activities should be managed." The draft defines passive recreation as those activities that are compatible with other allowed activities, do not have significant adverse impacts on natural and other values, depend on the open space setting for an integral part of the experience, and require minimal facilities and services to maintain safety and minimize impacts. The plan also gives a procedure for evaluating whether proposed activities satisfy the definition of passive recreation.
FortFIDOS continues to make slow but steady progress. On January 19th, members of the FortFIDOS board had a very exciting and productive meeting with the Fort Collins City staff, which included the City Manager and the Directors of Natural Resources and Parks & Recreation. The many inquiries and solicitations for more dog-friendly areas in Fort Collins from FortFIDOS look like they paid off, as the City is planning to designate nearly 17 acres of land north of town as the site for a future dog park. However, the donation of land to the City from its current owner has not been completed, and the FortFIDOS board is waiting for word from the City that the land is officially owned by the City before involving the community in the planning and creation of what everyone hopes will be the premier dog park in Fort Collins.
FortFIDOS knows that this is still just a stepping stone to reaching their goal of making a wide range of recreational areas designated as off-leash for dogs within the City, but everyone is encouraged and enthused about the prospect of an expanded dog park in Fort Collins.
In other FIDOS news from the north: FortFIDOS participated in the Fire Hydrant Five on May 13th by having a booth at the event. They will also be at the Doggie Olympics, which will be held on Sunday, September 24th, in City Park. Entry forms for the Doggie Olympics will be coming out in August, and the Fort FIDOS group will send some to the Boulder Humane Society.