Monday, October 9, 2017

Summer experiment allowing dogs on select trails results in violations of rules and numerous complaints

A summer experiment that allowed dogs on select trails at Mueller State Park resulted in repeated violations of rules, numerous complaints and even a confrontation between visitors, prompting park officials to decide against opening trails to dogs on a permanent basis.

Park Manager John Geerdes said the problems ranged from pet owners taking their dogs onto restricted trails, owners failing to control their dogs, complaints of dogs chasing wildlife, aggressive dogs, dog waste on trails and dogs being off-leash.

“We had reports of dogs chasing small wildlife such as foxes, squirrels and rabbits,” Geerdes said. “And we heard, over and over again, that people come here to hike because it is one of the last places they can do so and not encounter dogs. Many come for the wildlife experience and say dogs ruin that for them.”

Mueller, south of Divide in Teller County, allowed dogs on portions of the Homestead and Black Bear trails on a three-month trial basis beginning June 1. It was a recognition of the trend of outdoor enthusiasts who hike and camp with their pets.

In the 25 years or so since Mueller opened, park officials were reluctant to introduce pets in the park because they can attract predators, chase and scare wildlife when uncontrolled and even transmit diseases, Geerdes said.

Once the trial ended Aug. 31, Geerdes evaluated the 88 written and verbal comments provided by guests, studied attendance numbers and reviewed seven written tickets issued for rule violations.

“There was not enough positive evidence to justify allowing dogs on trails and in the backcountry,” Geerdes said, noting that many guests noticed a drop in sightings of big game along the trails compared to previous summers.

Though dogs are banned from trails, they remain welcome in the campground, picnic areas and along paved roads on a leash.

Mueller State Park is located on Colorado Highway 67, 3.5 miles south of the intersection of U.S. Highway 24 in Divide.


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