Pitkin County leash law nets few violators
ASPEN – The majority of local dog owners appear to be keeping their canines on a short leash when hiking, judging from the low number of tickets issued this summer.
John Armstrong, a ranger for Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, said between six and eight tickets have been issued to people who ignore leash laws on heavily used trails.
“The summer has been very encouraging,” he said. “We measure our success on how many tickets we don’t write.”
Three rangers have been patrolling this summer on high-volume trails like the Rio Grande and Hunter Creek, where having a dog off leash can land a person a $100 fine.
Armstrong noted that the number of tickets issued this year is down considerably from the previous two years. Offenders typically get a warning, either written or verbal, before they are issued a ticket.
This year, open space and trails provided free leashes that are hung on posts at the beginning of the Hunter Creek and the Lani White trails, as well as on the trail leading to the Hunter Creek Valley.
Armstrong said the department has gone through 250 leashes, which cost less that $1.
The point of the leash law is to allow all users their space and to give respect to everyone using the trails.
“Some people are terrified of dogs or don’t want to be jumped on or brushed with a wet nose,” Armstrong said.
Rangers are sometimes considered heavy-handed but Armstrong said their mission is to inform and educate.
“Any image that we are militant is from people who don’t want regulation,” he said.”We try to keep the contact as friendly as we can.”
Areas in town where having dogs off leash is allowable include Rio Grande Park, Wagner Park, Smuggler and the Marolt Open Space.
Failing to pick up pet waste also is a ticketable offense under Colorado law and Pitkin County ordinance, which also requires that people with dogs carry a bag with them.
Abandoned poop was a major issue on Smuggler Mountain Road in recent years but the problem subsided with increased patrol. However, Armstrong has noticed recently that it’s an issue again.
“The lower end is a disappointment, and it’s not as good as it could be,” he said.
The other problem area is at the Arbaney Kittle trailhead near Basalt, which is littered with feces, even underneath and around the bag dispensary.
“People show up with their dogs and open the car door before they are ready and they aren’t watching their dogs,” Armstrong said, adding Boulder has a law that requires people to keep dogs in the car until they exit it.
Pitkin County is in the process of cleaning the area and beefing up enforcement.
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Max Weintraub has been senior curator at the Aspen Art Museum since January 2019.