Friday, November 10, 2006

Developed areas in Cheyenne Mountain State Park will be open to dogs, but not the trails

DOGS IN THE PARK: My friends and I eagerly awaited the opening of the new Cheyenne Mountain (State Park), only to find out dogs are not allowed. Why do some state parks allow dogs and others do not?
— Sherry Hower

ANSWER: Dogs can’t go there now because the park is still being developed. However, as more areas are completed, dogs will be allowed to go with their humans to the developed areas — the parking lots (which will have doggie cleanup stations), the picnic areas, campgrounds and on the roads. Dogs won’t be allowed, now or then, on the trails or in the backcountry. For now, only a parking lot that leads to the trails is open, so, no dogs.

The wildlife in the park is a major factor in that decision, in addition to the safety of visitors and safety of the dogs, who are hunters by nature, said senior ranger Monique Mullis. Park rangers don’t want dogs to be killed by bears, or small animals to be killed by dogs.

Mullis said park officials are following an extensive stewardship plan that inventoried the park, the wildlife, the soil, the vegetation and what is needed “to make sure this amazing property is around for future generations."

"There is an amazing diversity of wildlife in the park and that had a lot to do with the decision (about dogs),” Mullis said. “Even a dog on a leash urinating on a tree causes stress to the wildlife.” There are black bears, elk, mountain lions, roadrunners, prairie dogs, coyotes, foxes and bobcats. “The oven bird is here, a ground nesting bird that is not common in the area. There’s an amazing population of breeding turkeys, and their nests must be protected,” she said.

Mullis said the staff can offer suggestions to visitors about dog parks in the area. “There are a lot of other opportunities,” she said. “The majority of state parks allow dogs on their trails. It’s a park-by-park basis.”

For those who asked about horses, Cheyenne Mountain State Park is not a horse park, but for a very different reason. Horses eat hay and when they poop in the park, they bring in noxious weeds, Mullis explained. “This park is one of the best in the system for lack of noxious weeds. In addition, the soils are particularly erosive, fragile. These trails were not designed to be sustainable for horses.”


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