Basalt council supports stricter dog leash law enforcement with designation of off-leash areas |

Basalt council supports stricter dog leash law enforcement with designation of off-leash areas

A woman walks her dog near the Roaring Fork River in Basalt in June. The town is preparing to designate some places where dogs can be off leash and start stricter enforcement of the leash law elsewhere.
Aspen Times file

A plan to enforce a leash law and designate some parks for off-leash play is advancing in Basalt despite a few residents saying, “Doggone it.”

The Town Council voted 6-0 Tuesday night to direct its staff to make changes in the town code that will allow establishment of designated off-leash areas for dogs in parks. When those off-leash spaces are created, dogs will have to be on restraints of no more than 10 feet everywhere else within town boundaries.

Mahoney said the police department would ease into enforcement.

“We would try to do education first,” he said.

The town has a leash law on the books but it isn’t strictly enforced. The issue was revisited after a “few” residents encouraged stronger enforcement recently, Mahoney said.

The Basalt Police Department researched dog calls and determined there were 27 dog bites between June 30, 2016, and March 21, 2019. Of those, there were 21 cases of dogs being off leash and six when they were on leash.

There were another 20 dog attacks on people and seven attacks of dogs on dogs.

Police Chief Greg Knott said his staff has been talking to citizens who have expressed opinions on both sides of the issue and came up with a compromise position.

“I think this is an extremely good example of community policing,” Knott told the council.

Four people who attended Tuesday night’s hearing spoke on the issue, with three against greater enforcement of the leash law and one saying dogs need to be kept away from small children in the playgrounds.

“I guess my opinion overall is that we don’t need a change,” said a man who has lived in the Elk Run neighborhood since 2006. He said people walking their dogs do a good job of policing themselves whenever there is an issue with aggressive behavior in dogs or owners not picking up waste.

Councilwoman Jennifer Riffle said dogs are a big part of Basalt’s “social fabric” and she agreed that most dog owners are responsible.

“We do have really good community policing,” she said.

She didn’t oppose greater enforcement of the leash law but proposed expanding the list of off-leash play areas.

Town officials previously identified “the large field” at Arbaney Park, Southside Park and the western portion of the Linear Park at Willits as off-leash areas.

Riffle suggested adding the swimming hole at the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers, the Basalt River Park until it gets developed, the Swinging Bridge path along the Fryingpan River and Ponderosa Park along the Roaring Fork River. She said she would like to hear from Willits residents if they want additional off-leash areas.

She said all her suggested additional areas experience dog traffic.

“There already are poop boxes in all these locations,” she noted.

The staff will return at a later date with a finalized list of off-leash sites.

All members of council present at the meeting supported the altered policy. Councilman Gary Tennenbaum is traveling and couldn’t attend.