Last night while many Coloradoans sat on interstates making their way home on ice- and snow-packed roads, more than 50 die-hard Boulder residents trudged through the snow to attend the City of Boulder Open Space Board of Trustees (OSBT) meeting at New Vista High School.
“It took me an hour and 15 minutes to get from Lafayette,” says Sue DeRose, an activist for the Save Our Dog Access (SODA) campaign.
At the meeting the Community Collaborative Group (CCG) — a collection of 15 community-elected volunteers representing various interests of the community including conservationists, hikers, dog-walkers and equestrians — outlined their recommendations for changes to the West Trail Study Area (West TSA).
After a lengthy public input session, the OSBT voted unanimously to approve the CCG’s recommendations.
The following trails will become dog-free:
- West Sanitas perimeter trail (previously an undesignated trail system) Active enforcement of dog regulations. If compliance seems insufficient OSMP will increase enforcement. Non-compliance in this area is considered egregious and a court appearance and maximum fine will be recommended.
- Tenderfoot Chapman loop (previously voice and sight)
- Saddle Rock (previously voice and sight with a seasonal leash required August 15 – November 1 on lower section of the trail)
- E.M. Greenman from intersection with Ranger to intersection with Saddle Rock (previously leash required)
- Middle-Lower McClintock from the Enchanted Mesa bridge down to the trail junction with the trail connecting to the Enchanted Mesa Trailhead (previously leash required) – the eastern portion of Lower McClintock remains unleashed.
- Towhee Trail with new shortened connection to Mesa Trail (previously leash required)
- Trail from Greenbriar to Big Bluestem (previously an undesignated trail)
The following areas will become dogs-prohibited year round:
- Lower Big Bluestem Grassland Protection Area (revised boundary of existing dog-free area and includes the former small voice and sight area adjacent to Greenbriar)
- Around the Towhee Trail – including the riparian corridor adjacent to the Homestead Trail crossing
- Around the Saddle Rock Trail
- Area bordered by the Tenderfoot Chapman loop
- West Sanitas/Wittemyer
Since 2009, the CCG has worked to develop their recommendations, which board members and many residents hailed as an “impressive effort.”
However, some residents felt their comments during the public input portion of the meeting were not taken into consideration or in some cases not even heard.
The hardest hit groups — dog walkers and mountain bikers — felt they were underrepresented on the CCG and, despite attending all CCG meetings and taking advantage of past public input sessions, felt their concerns were not addressed.
“We were at the meetings for months,” DeRose says. “They [the OSBT] basically ignored the public comment.”
DeRose says that dog walkers have lost more than 50 trails in the past 10 years, and with the latest recommendation, dog enthusiasts would lose another 12 trails.
“They [the OSBT] have purchased 20,000 acres since 1995, and they have opened nothing,” she says.
DeRose spoke during the public input session at Wednesday’s meeting, handing a petition to the board with 500 signatures from supporters.
“Five hundred signatures didn’t seem to have an impact,” says Jill Jones, another SODA activist.
“In any process people feel like they aren’t being heard,” says Steve Armstead, project manager of the Open Space and Mountain Parks West TSA committee. Armstead says there were plenty of opportunities for public input over the past year and the OSBT would continue to hear residents’ concerns.
“There’s a difference between being heard and being listened to,” Armstead says. “You can’t always meet everybody’s need.”