Dog park to totally close
O∞cials decide that the final 8 acres will be shut down April 4.
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.