Pitkin County has no plans to clean up poop on Aspen Smuggler Mountain
The Aspen Times
Flags marking piles of dog poop on Smuggler Mountain aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but they are reminders to dog owners that the poop problem isn’t the county’s job to clean up.
Pitkin County Open Space and Trails senior ranger John Armstrong said the county is not planning to clean up the dozens of dog-poop piles scattered around the first quarter mile of the trail. The reason is simple: It’ll only teach dog owners to expect someone else to clean up their messes.
“Really it’s one person’s responsibility, and that is the dog owner,” Armstrong said. “I firmly believe it’s everyone’s right to hike up Smuggler and to be safe and have a healthy environment, but it’s a privilege to take your dog up there.”
That privilege could be one of the first things to go should the problem worsen. Currently, dog owners are allowed to walk their dogs without leashes on the trail as long as the dogs are within sight and under voice control of the owners. Dog owners can’t allow the dogs to fall behind them, either, because it only takes a few seconds for a dog to do its business without the owner seeing.
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There are garbage cans with plastic poop bags at the switchbacks on the trail, but that doesn’t stop people from leaving the dirty business out for someone else to smell or step in.
A woman walking her dog up the trail Wednesday afternoon picked up her dog’s poop in a plastic bag and did exactly what Armstrong said is another growing problem: She dropped the bag on the side of the trail and kept on walking. There was a garbage can about 50 feet ahead.
“We try to make it as easy as possible for people — we have three (garbage) cans on the switchbacks,” he said. “You wouldn’t throw a candy wrapper or a coffee cup on the trail, so why would you leave a bag of feces?”
Armstrong said it’s unreasonable to expect taxpayer dollars to be spent on cleaning up dog waste due to negligent dog owners. The first move, he said, would be to change laws.
“There’s a ton of people getting great joy walking their pets off-leash up there,” he said. “It would be a shame to lose such a nice privilege.”
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Local officials don’t think Aspen and Pitkin County residents are taking social distancing and isolation rules seriously enough, and reiterated Monday their importance in controlling the spread of the coronavirus.