Cozy Point could become new home for a dog park | AspenTimes.com

Cozy Point could become new home for a dog park

Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times

Signs were added in August at Jaffee Park requiring dogs to be on leash, raising the ire of many dog walkers that have walked their pets off leash in the area for years. The City of Aspen is looking at future options on the Cozy Point open space property that's located near the Brush Creek turnoff to Snowmass Village, including a possible dog park.

Monroe Summers never hid his passion for the Cozy Point Ranch along Highway 82 near Brush Creek. From the time he took over managing the property in 2000 until his death this year, he ran the horse boarding operation as well as the summer riding camp. He also began to raise cattle on the property.

Summers expanded the property use to include space for nonprofit organizations tied to sustainable agricultural practices. He envisioned a space for a community garden and for a commercial grower that would sell produce onsite.

He also considered adding a dedicated off-leash dog park on the property.

The idea of a fenced dog park was discussed on more than one occasion between Summers and Seth Sachson, who runs the Aspen Animal Shelter and the nonprofit Friends of the Aspen Animal Shelter.

"Monroe was really excited about the concept of creating a dog park at Cozy Point," Sachson said. "It was my idea, so he didn't really have a plan. He just loved the idea. It was next on the agenda that we were going to work on together. It seems like a slam-dunk easy solution. I can't think of any negatives about a dog park at Cozy Point."

A dedicated dog park isn't a new concept to the Aspen area. Jeff Woods, the city of Aspen parks and recreation manager, said he's heard talk about a permanent dog park for years.

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Woods said Summers mentioned the idea of a dog park somewhere in the Cozy Point area at a City Council work session on July 22.

"We're in the process of putting together a master plan for Cozy Point," Woods said. "While Monroe did propose the idea of a dog park, it doesn't mean it's necessarily going to happen. We're going to talk to a broad part of our community to lay out a vision for that area."

Cozy Point open space, which includes Cozy Point Ranch, is located northwest of the Brush Creek turnoff that goes up to Snowmass Village.

The dog park conversation spiked a month ago at a county Open Space and Trails meeting after a group of residents attended to protest the recent signage and enforcement of leash requirements at Jaffee Park near Woody Creek.

Bland Nesbit has lived in Aspen for 42 years and was part of a team of volunteers at the Aspen Animal Shelter that helped with fundraising to build a new shelter facility in 2006.

Nesbit currently owns four dogs and has walked her dogs off-leash at Jaffee Park for years. She prefers Jaffee Park to other areas such as Smuggler Mountain and the Marolt Open Space near the entrance to Aspen because it keeps her dogs away from any vehicular traffic and is fairly level throughout most of the park.

"Jaffee Park has always carried a friendly vibe between the users," Nesbit said. "It's wonderful for dogs as it gives them someplace to exercise and be social. Personally, I love the fact that it's flat and easy to walk around at."

Pam Cathcart is another local resident who prefers Jaffee Park to the other off-leash options in the Aspen area.

"It's such a peaceful environment," Cathcart said. "It's always been a quiet, hidden gem of an area. Recently, two different rangers that had different interpretations of the leash laws at Jaffee Park approached me. Because of my knees, I can't take a lot of the hilly trails locally, especially if I hike two days in a row. I get nervous walking my dog off-leash in an area like the Marolt Open Space because of the proximity to the highways."

Both Nesbit and Cathcart said they don't know what they would do if one of their dogs bolted toward the highway because they said they physically couldn't catch them at that point.

"That's why Jaffee Park is so special," Nesbit said. "It's a wonderful enclosed area that feels very safe. We need an area like this that's accessible and comfortable for the dogs. Having an area they can swim in or just cool down in the summer is fantastic."

If the county insists on enforcing the leash laws at Jaffee Park, then Nesbit wants to know why Open Space and Trails doesn't designate another area to become an off-leash area that's safe and secure for the dogs.

Sachson said Cozy Point would fit that bill perfectly.

"I can envision a modern, well-fenced dog park there," Sachson said. "I would like to see a committee formed to look at other dog parks in the area and find out what works for them and what doesn't. Monroe and I both saw that area as the entrance to Aspen and kicked around the idea of doing something special, whether it's modern fencing, unique water features within the park or an obstacle course. We talked about separate areas for large and small dogs and other issues, but Monroe never nailed down any exact details or parameters."

Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Ranger John Armstrong was at the department's Sept. 4 board meeting, where a group of residents approached the board to reconsider enforcing the leash laws at Jaffee Park.

Armstrong thought the residents had a reasonable request.

"Smuggler Mountain is steep and not really convenient unless you live in Aspen," Armstrong said. "Jaffee Park has always been designated as on-leash and we recently stepped up the enforcement. We're considering the options there and could make changes, but there are other user groups that access that area. We're also the voice of the wildlife, and those needs have to be considered. Not to say an option at Cozy Point wouldn't be a good thing. It's been mentioned as an option to consider. Dog walkers are definitely a significant user group in this community."

Doug Raines works at Cozy Point and assisted Summers with the ranch operations. He said Summers had a strong love for dogs and very much wanted to include a dog park at Cozy Point.

Raines said the roadblocks Summers faced were funding and maintenance of the park. They both saw the intersection of Juniper Hills Road and Highway 82, near the archery range, as a natural place for the entrance and possible location for the park.

"We both felt there was a definite need for a dog park," Raines said. "It would draw from the whole upper valley. I talk to people walking their dogs on trails all the time that really want a safe, off-leash area. I've seen dog parks in other parts of this country and think it would be a positive for our community."

Woods said he respects the vision Summers had for Cozy Point and his work to make the area a place for many different users to enjoy, whether they ride horses or are interested in agricultural heritage.

"I'm very excited about looking at the future of Cozy Point," Woods said. "There's a lot of opportunities for significant improvements to facilities and looking at some uses that have had a hard time finding a home, like a dog or bicycle park. Monroe had a legacy that's helping with this movement to focus on Cozy Point. I'm excited that we can take a phenomenal facility and make it something beyond what it is and get the community involved."