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Increase in dog waste growing into big problem on trails

The Ridge to Rivers Trail crew picks up approximately 350 pounds of dog poop each week from trailhead trash cans.

From the City of Boise, Idaho (10/25/06)

photo of bikes on trail crossing road
"Pick up after your pet" sign at Crown Hill Park, Wheat Ridge, CO (Photo from Jefferson County Open Space)

An increase in dog waste is growing into a major problem in the Foothills.

More poop than ever is piling up at trailheads and along pathways, says David Gordon, River to Rivers Coordinator. "Without question, the No. 1 negative comment that we receive is the amount of dog waste encountered on trails, followed closely by dogs off leash in on-leash areas," he says. Dog owners frequently disregard on-leash trail restrictions in Hulls Gulch and Military Reserve.

Ridge to Rivers distributes 80,000 "mutt mitts" annually at a cost of $1,280. Additionally, thousands of used grocery bags are donated by city employees and local residents for use in the dispensers.

Gordon estimates that the mutt mitts account for only 50 percent of the waste laid on the trails annually. The Ridge to Rivers crew picks up approximately 350 pounds of dog poop each week from trailhead trash cans. The biggest contributors are the Grove in Hulls Gulch with approximately 80 pounds per week followed by the 9th Street Trailhead, Red Fox Trail and Military Reserve cans with about 45 pounds.

In 2003, an 11-member volunteer committee helped craft "controlled" off-leash regulations for dogs on selected trails. On controlled off-leash trails, dogs must remain within 30 feet of owners. Dogs are prohibited from approaching or harassing people, wildlife or other pets.

Off-leash trails comprise 95 percent of the Ridge to Rivers trail system. On-leash trails are located in the Camelsback/Lower Hulls Gulch area and Military Reserve.

"When you look at what is provided for dog owners in terms of so many off-leash trails and all of the mutt mitt dispensers and trash cans, it really should be pretty simple to follow the rules," says Gordon. "Cities with similar trail systems have enacted stricter measures to gain compliance with dog owners. We may need to do the same thing."

In recent years signage has been improved to educate dog owners about regulations, says Gordon. He also pointed out that Ridge to River's volunteer Trail Rangers spend a large portion of their time talking to dog owners about the rules, but it doesn't seem to be changing behavior patterns.

Ridge to Rivers is a collaborative effort of local, state and federal partners working together to maintain trails and open space in the Boise Foothills. Funding for the program is provided by the City of Boise, Bureau of Land Management, Boise National Forest, and Ada County.

The Ridge to Rivers Trail provides this reminder to visitors to its website:

Dog Owners!! The number one complaint we hear from Ridge to Rivers trail users is the lack of willingness by dog owners to pick up after their pets. Bring a baggy, or grab a mutt mitt from one of the many dispensers we have at trailheads, and deposit your doggy's exhaust in a trash can. Doing so, and abiding by the leash regulations will help to ensure that your pets are welcome on Ridge to Rivers trails. Reminder: Dogs are required to be On-Leash at trailheads in Military Reserve and Hulls Gulch. Failure to follow leash restrictions may result in a fine.

For information about the Ridge to Rivers trail system, see www.cityofboise.org/parks/foothills or call Gordon at 514-3755.

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