A bone of contention? | AspenTimes.com

A bone of contention?

The Pitkin County Open Space and Trails board of directors decided Thursday to lift a dog ban on a popular midvalley trail, despite warnings from several users that they were barking up the wrong tree.The board voted 5-0 to lift the ban Aug. 1 on the Emma-to-Wingo Junction trail for a one-year experiment. Board members also vowed to get tougher on enforcing a leash law and a requiring that dog owners pick up their pets’ waste.But supporters of the dog ban predicted the new rules will lead to disaster.”People don’t keep their dogs on leashes,” said Basalt resident Stephanie Scavullo. “People don’t care; the selfish nature comes out.”Emma resident Gail Caruso warned that enforcement would pose a problem, despite the board’s tough talk. Many dog owners will let their pets run at large even if they see signs warning about potential fines.The penalty for letting a dog run at large along the trail or failing to scoop poop will be $100 for the first offense, $500 for the second and $1,000 for the third.But Caruso said most dog owners feel the rules don’t apply to them. “They are never on a leash,” she said of the dogs. “They’re only a leash when the owners see a ranger.”Critics of the dog ban countered that they shouldn’t be penalized because of the actions of others. “Those of us who were abiding by the law kind of got a slap in the face” by the ban, said an unidentified woman who lives in South Side.Two midvalley organizations spoke against lifting the ban. The MidValley Trails Committee advised keeping the ban because of problems with enforcement.The Roaring Fork Conservancy, which helped acquire and helps manage 74 acres of open space along the trail, favors the ban because of the potential effect dogs can have on wildlife migrating through the property and cattle grazing there, according to Executive Director Jeanne Beaudry.Lifting the ban would probably require erecting fences along the property to prevent dogs that are off-leash from chasing the livestock, she said.The ban was initially put into place for the benefit of two working ranches along the three-mile route. Dogs harassed livestock at the ranches of Billy Grange and Reno Cerise.But Dale Will, director of the open space program, said that problem was solved by installing wire-mesh fences where the trail crosses the ranch pastures.Cerise said there haven’t been problems under the dog ban but he wasn’t convinced issues won’t arise once the ban is lifted.Rancher and 14-year open space board member Bill Fales noted that nothing stirs passions more than dogs. He said a friend who used to be a cop in Carbondale told him that going to someone’s house to settle a domestic disturbance was easier to deal with than writing someone a ticket for their dog.Fales pushed for lifting the ban. Rick Neiley, another longtime veteran of the board, said he had reservations about lifting the ban because he doubts the program’s one enforcement officer can devote enough time to the Emma trail to force compliance. Neiley ultimately voted in favor of lifting the ban as long as the program adopted a “zero tolerance” policy on dogs at-large and owners not picking up waste. He suggested another enforcement officer may be needed.Open space board members and staffers suggested an “outreach” effort may be necessary to educate people about the rules. Fales predicted word will travel fast.”When the guy is sitting in Two Rivers tavern crying in his beer about his $100 ticket, that’s a lot of outreach,” said Fales.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com.

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