Editor's note: This is an updated version of a story previously posted on www.snowmasssun.com.
SNOWMASS VILLAGE - The Snowmass Village Town Council on Sept. 10 gave staff the go-ahead to pursue changes to the town's dog policy and update the town's Trails Master Plan.
Town Manager Russ Forrest presented a conceptual plan for creating zones in town that would have different dog policies. Currently, dogs are required to be leashed on any publicly accessed land in town. The idea presented by staff would be to create some areas where dogs would be allowed and also allowed off-leash, if owners have them under voice command.
The dog regulations will be considered in the context of updating the Trails Master Plan. At that time the council will consider appropriate locations for those zones and other details, as well as non-dog-related issues such as new trails and signage.
Forrest said he has discussed the Snowmass ski area with the Forest Service and Snowmass Village Police as a potential area to allow dogs off-leash, with the exception of the Elk Camp area, which is deemed sensitive to wildlife.
Councilman John Wilkinson said he would not support that because of the Valhalla, Village Bound, Powerline and other trails on the ski area popular with cyclists.
"I like the idea of having voice command on some of the lower ski trails," he said.
"But as far as a blanket statement that we're going to relax the leash laws on the whole ski area ..."
Town Attorney John Dresser explained that staff was just looking for approval of the concept at Monday's meeting.
Councilman Jason Haber raised a different concern with the discussion.
"I'm not necessarily opposed to having areas where you could have dogs under voice control. I don't know that I'm really all in favor of some major undertaking," he said, speaking of the Trails Master Plan update.
Another aspect under consideration in revising trail policy toward dogs is amending the Horse Ranch PUD to allow dogs. Rim Trail North is included in that land, and though dogs are prohibited in that PUD because the town purchased the land for wildlife protection, the ban was never enforced until last year.
Many residents have stood before council asking it to eliminate the ban, and John Dresser said at the meeting that Snowmass Village has also received two petitions from Horse Ranch residents asking for the change. Mayor Bill Boineau said that the council had also received an email from a resident not in favor, however.
The cost of a minor PUD amendment to change the dog policy would only be staff time, Forrest said.
"We're not engaging in a scientific study; we're not engaging in engineering work," Dresser said. "We're talking about changing the use of a trail that's already existing."
Councilwoman Markey Butler reiterated Haber's point, asking if the Trails Master Plan was so outdated that it had to be discussed with the dog issue. Forrest pointed out that the council listed the update as a goal on its strategic plan.
"I think this is an absolutely appropriate time to undergo (the master plan update)," said Councilman Fred Kucker.
"It is more than just dogs, it's looking at here's what we have today ... (and) talking in terms of new trails," Forrest said.
Dresser said trail-use issues have been coming up since even before the purchase of the Droste property and the formation of Sky Mountain Park, so he didn't see the dog discussion as the impetus for updating the trails plan.
Kucker said he would like to see the council work on a plan addressing the needs of dog owners and that he would also like have community input.
Haber was the only council member who voted against the staff working on the trails plan.
"I think it's a distraction and not something we should be spending a lot of staff time on," he said.