Dog park to to­tally close

O∞cials de­cide that the fi­nal 8 acres will be shut down April 4.

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Kieran Ni­chol­son and Josie Kle­maier

A pop­u­lar, award-win­ning off-leash dog park in Ev­er­green will be shut down per­ma­nently, open space of­fi­cials said Fri­day, dis­ap­point­ing hun­dreds of park users who had formed a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion in hope of keep­ing it open.

Last week, Jef­fer­son County Open Space an­nounced that 99 of 107 acres of Elk Meadow Park Dog Off-leash Area would be fenced off and closed, leav­ing an 8-acre sec­tion open for use by dog own­ers and their an­i­mals.

On Fri­day, how­ever, open space of­fi­cials an­nounced a com­plete clo­sure on April 4, cit­ing “mul­ti­ple safety and en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges,” which in­cluded park users fail­ing to pick up af­ter their an­i­mals.

“Some­thing smells, and it isn’t dog poop,” said Betsy Rich, pres­i­dent of Friends of Ev­er­green Dog Park, a non­profit, lo­cal com­mu­nity group formed with in­ten­tions to clean up the of­fleash area and keep it open.

With over 200 mem­bers, the friends group or­ga­nized mul­ti­ple, vol­un­teer cleanups as well var­i­ous plans and sug­ges­tions to im­prove the space and make it sus­tain­able, said Rich.

“Clearly, they were go­ing to close it any­way,” she said. “The shame of the whole thing is we had cre­ated a plan to man­age this, to turn it into a model park that could be repli­cated. This clo­sure is all on them, all about their mis­man­age­ment.”

Mis­man­age­ment of the park, ac­cord­ing to Rich, in­cludes: lack of sig­nage about rules and reg­u­la­tions; lack of park­ing, which typ­i­cally led to a full lot and il­le­gal park­ing on Stage­coach Boule­vard; and tubes for stor­age and dis­tri­bu­tion of pickup sacks that were per­pet­u­ally empty.

Ris­ing prop­erty val­ues and com­plaints from park neigh­bors about il­le­gal park­ing in the area have as much to do with the clo­sure as does con­cerns about pos­si­ble E. coli con­tam­i­na­tion, Rich said.

Tom Hoby, open space di­rec­tor, said the de­ci­sion to en­tirely close the off-leash area, as op­posed to leav­ing the 8-acre spot open, was be­cause the smaller space was not go­ing to please any­one on ei­ther side of the is­sue.

“We have been go­ing through a very big ef­fort to keep eight acres open and that didn’t ap­pear to serve the pub­lic in­ter­est,” Hoby said.

Two main fac­tors — park­ing-re­lated safety and wa­ter qual­ity — ul­ti­mately led to the clos­ing, Hoby said.

Friends of the park ques­tion the ac­cu­racy of E. coli and wa­ter tests, ar­gu­ing that since vol­un­teer pickup be­gan in Septem­ber, the park’s con­di­tion im­proved dra­mat­i­cally.

Open space of­fi­cials, how­ever, stand be­hind the E. coli ar­gu­ment, not­ing that lev­els were 20 times the le­gal limit last sum­mer.

“There has been some im­prove­ment, but not nearly to the level that there needs to be (for the park) to be open,” Hoby said.

Off-leash park sup­port­ers say E. coli lev­els dropped 96 per­cent af­ter or­ga­nized vol­un­teer pickup started.

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