Aspenites want a place dogs can go |

Aspenites want a place dogs can go

Aspen’s dogs may soon have a park of their own in which to conduct their socializing and their business, all while keeping an eye on their owners.

A group of Aspenites – people who own dogs and people who don’t – have met twice in the last two months to discuss the designation of an off-leash area in town. They expect to have a proposal ready for the City Council as soon as next month.

The group, which drew 22 people to its first meeting in late September and more than a half-dozen to its second meeting last night at the local library, may soon propose turning Molly Gibson Park near Smuggler Mountain Road into an off-leash area.

The idea is hardly original. Cities from New York to Seattle have set aside off-leash dog parks for years as a way to give dogs a place to congregate, exercise and socialize. There are more than 700 dog parks in the United States, including several on the Front Range, according to information gathered by Brian Flynn, the city’s environmental officer.

As currently written, the city ordinance on dogs makes it a crime anytime a dog is not leashed, except on private property with the permission of the owner. Penalties for allowing a dog to run at large include fines of up to $300 and 90 days in jail.

But, in reality, the law is disobeyed often and enforced only sporadically. Flynn said 97 “at large” tickets have been issued to dog owners, most to about 35 chronic offenders.

As part of their plan to go before the council, the group put together a list of reasons the law isn’t working: It’s unrealistic to exercise a dog on a leash; the terms “running at large” and “under control,” both of which are used in the law, are not clear; and most of the problems are caused by irresponsible owners.

As things currently stand, they noted, park users with dogs legally don’t have a park to use.

In addition to giving over part or all of Molly Gibson Park as an off-leash area, there is another proposal to allow dogs to run free in some city parks early in the morning and late in the afternoon.

The group is also hoping the council will raise the fines for failing to pick up dog poop from $75 to anywhere between $250 and $500.

“Dog owners will have more willing acceptance from the community if the poop problem is taken care of,” said an east-end woman who asked not to be named.

Sheldon Fingerman, who doesn’t own a dog or even like them much, said he would be willing to see dogs run free at Molly Gibson, his neighborhood park, as long as the fines for failing to clean up after a dog are jacked up.

“My situation is this – you get the park, but you have to raise the fines,” Fingerman said.

“You can raise the fine to $1,000 for all I care,” agreed dog owner Andrew Kole. “It’s just laziness – it’s not like someone has to learn a skill to pick up after their dog. The fine should be $250 at the minimum.”

The group expects to take its proposal to the City Council’s informal noon lunch meeting on Nov. 1.

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