Aspenite urges winter relaxation of local leash law |

Aspenite urges winter relaxation of local leash law

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesA group of snowshoers and a dog head up the Rio Grande Trail toward Aspen on Saturday. An Aspen resident has asked open space officials to relax the leash law on the trail during the winter months.

ASPEN – An Aspen resident is asking Pitkin County to loosen up on its leash laws during the winter months on three area trails. She found a sympathetic ear among members of the Open Space and Trails board for at least one of her requests.

Lara Lewis, an owner of two dogs, on Thursday urged open space officials to consider allowing unleashed dogs in the wintertime on the Rio Grande Trail between Stein Park and Basalt, on the lower Hunter Creek Trail as it climbs into the Hunter Creek Valley from Aspen, and on a short segment of the Nordic system crossing the Moore Open Space.

The latter request is not without merit, some board members agreed. The nordic loop on the Marolt Open Space and the outer loop at the Aspen golf course both allow dogs, but someone with a dog who wants to move from one loop to the other isn’t supposed to use the most convenient link – a short stretch of nordic trail on the Moore Open Space, which is closed to dogs as a wildlife protection.

Wildlife is prevalent on the Moore property, Lewis agrees. She’s interested only in use of the short stretch between the Maroon Creek Road pedestrian overpass that connects to the Marolt Open Space (at the Aspen Chapel) and the Highway 82 underpass that connects the golf course to the Moore parcel. The alternative involves taking off ones skis for a walk on a sidewalk, through a bus pullout and beneath the highway.

“It really is a trail gap for dog walkers, dog skiers,” said John Armstrong, open space ranger.

“You kind of have an awkward connection there,” agreed board member Howie Mallory, an avid cross country skier. He offered to take the issue up with the Aspen-Snowmass Nordic Council, of which he is also a member.

Board members appeared less enthused about Lewis’ other suggestions.

Past surveys of Rio Grande users indicate a lot of people prefer that dogs be leashed, noted Tim McFlynn, board chairman.

“There are huge numbers of people who don’t want dogs running around and jumping around,” he said.

They also trample the groomed nordic track, said board member Anne Rickenbaugh, though leashed dogs and the people walking them often do, as well.

Both the Rio Grande below Stein Park and the lower Hunter Creek Trail see use by hikers (with and without dogs) and skiers during the winter, but not bicycles, Lewis noted. She believes the winter months offer an opportunity to ease up on the leash laws in both places and give dogs another place to run, even if it’s only for a couple of months.

In addition, the lower Hunter Creek Trail can be a bit treacherous with a leashed dog or two in hand.

“That trail is icy, icy, icy,” she told the board.

The county’s leash law is in effect on the Hunter Creek Trail between town and the Forest Service boundary in the Hunter Creek Valley.

Lewis said receiving a citation for having an unleashed dog on the Rio Grande Trail spurred her to action.

“I just thought, this isn’t right,” she said. “I’m wondering, does everyone think like I do, or do people want dogs on leashes?”

To find out, she has set up an online petition – it’s at – where those who are interested in weighing in can do so. Lewis said she welcomes input on both sides of the issue.

Meanwhile, Open Space and Trails is gearing up to survey trail users this year on the topic of paving the remaining unpaved segment of the Rio Grande Trail, between Stein Park and a point above Woody Creek. Last year, the trail was paved through the Woody Creek area, and a separate, gravel path was created as well.

Board member Hawk Greenway suggested the survey include a question that addresses what Lewis has suggested.

“We could add dog questions … once again take the pulse of the community on that issue,” Greenway said.

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