Monday, May 17, 2010

Trail Restrictions in Boulder

My advocacy focus has turned to home (Boulder, CO) today because I just received word that some people are lobbying to further restrict off-leash trail access to our nearby mountain trails. This is my response to the article, "Pooches Getting Screwed Again," which was published on Sunday in Boulder's Daily Camera:

A big grin and panting tongue. He looks up at you with those big, brown eyes, thanking you for such a great hike and much needed exercise before hopping into the car, and your heart melts.

Regarding the article “Pooches Getting Screwed Again,” I’d like to thank author Clay Evans for bringing the issue of OSMP further restricting dog access to public attention. I’m a person who hikes with my dog frequently, especially in areas like Sanitas (because we already seem so restricted in many other areas), and we would be devastated to lose that access or be required to be on-leash. My dog, like so many others in town, is impeccably trained not to approach dogs and people who don’t want a snorty “hello.” We’ve worked hard to make him a good off-leash canine “citizen” because he likes to walk at a different pace than I do, and allowing him the freedom to make decisions when I ask him to do things has immensely improved his confidence (he’s an ex-puppy mill dog) and strengthened our bond.

Even though I enjoy the exercise of hiking to stay fit, I'd go much less if I had to have my dog on-leash. Leashes get tangled around trees and trip people on the trail, making a more dangerous situation for other hikers and trail runners. Additionally, watching my dog romp around and enjoy himself after having lived in a cage for the first two years of his life is what often compels me to get up and go. As you can see, areas where we can hike off-leash are very important to me. Ask anyone else out hiking with their dogs, and you’ll find that our story is not unique.

As Clay said, the more you restrict hiking access for dogs, the more heavily worn the trails we can use will become. That’s not the best solution. A better idea would be to expand off-leash dog access to trails, so there would be a lesser concentration of dogs in each area. I have never seen a dog fight, a dog chasing wildlife, or a dog bite a human on the western trails. For the most part, the people I’ve encountered on these trails (with or without dogs) enjoy watching my dog’s joyful run, pet him, and walk away happier because they had the chance to meet him. Hiking with our dog is one of the reasons we live here, and I believe many “dog people” would agree that if dog-friendly trails are further restricted there will be a diminished appeal to living in Boulder.

Kyla Duffy

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