Denver doggie park idea given the boot |

Denver doggie park idea given the boot

John Colson

Aspen officials are poised to abandon the idea of using the John Denver sanctuary as the city’s experimental “leash-free zone” and “doggy park.”

The idea of using the sanctuary, which is located along the Roaring Fork River across from the Aspen Art Museum, has prompted a flurry of opposition in letters to the editor. The Aspen Times received more than a dozen letters by e-mail Thursday from Denver fans around the world.

City environmental enforcement officer Brian Flynn said Thursday that, after hearing from three of the five members of the City Council, he has turned his sights to other locations.

“They realized that it is a special place, and probably not appropriate for a dog park,” Flynn said, referring to council members Tom McCabe, Tony Hershey and Jim Markalunas.

Flynn said he is awaiting formal direction from the council, but is planning on seeking another site.

Markalunas, who missed a meeting about the dog park issue earlier in the week due to illness, said Thursday that he agrees with McCabe that it is “inappropriate” to put the John Denver sanctuary to such a use.

“We set it aside as a memorial to John Denver,” said Markalunas. “I don’t support dumping on that area.”

The idea of using the sanctuary was tentatively endorsed Tuesday a City Council work session.

A citizens advisory group called Aspen Canine Friends, led by Flynn, has been searching for a place where dog owners can let their pets run free within the city limits. The sanctuary was one of three possible locations proposed at the work session.

McCabe voiced his opposition to using the sanctuary at the work session, but then left before the meeting was over.

Hershey and Councilman Terry Paulson, who were the only two council members left at the meeting, concluded that the sanctuary might make a good location because it is near the trail. They reasoned that dog owners might be encouraged to walk their pets to the dog park rather than put them in a car to drive them over.

Flynn said his group, which has about seven members, will resume its search for an appropriate site. He said it is possible the group will want to reopen consideration of Molly Gibson Park, located at the base of Smuggler Mountain, and the Marolt Open Space, as well as seeking other possible sites near the Rio Grande Trail.

In his research of other cities that have such “leash-free” zones, Flynn said, he has learned that finding a location acceptable to the community typically takes several years.

“It doesn’t happen overnight,” he said, adding that the Aspen Canine Friends group has only been working at it for about four months.

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