Open space group debates dogs in the gulch |

Open space group debates dogs in the gulch

BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge Open Space Advisory Commission (BOSAC) member Turk Montepare remembers the day he realized the town needed to do something to keep dogs from ruining the delicate Cucumber Gulch wetlands on Peak 8.

“I saw a woman driving her car on the black loop (of the Nordic trails in the area), smoking a cigarette, and her two dogs were running behind her,” he told the commission Monday evening. “It was unbelievable.”

With that in mind, BOSAC members recommended to the town council Monday that it adopt a plan allowing leashed dogs on the Interstate Trail – a loop on the western end of the gulch – at least for now.

“It will only take one bad dog to wreck it for everyone else,” said town Open Space and Trails Planner Danica Rice.

Dogs have emerged as the most contentious issue surrounding Cucumber Gulch, an area that is home to beavers, elk, numerous bird species and the state-listed endangered boreal toad.

Other topics BOSAC has discussed in regard to a recreational plan for the gulch include closing redundant trails, erecting overlooks and developing interpretive signs to let people know about the ecological importance of the area the town purchased for $4.5 million in 2001.

The town has spent numerous hours creating plans and working with developers to protect the delicate wetlands, which biologists have repeatedly said are in prime condition. And they don’t want dogs chasing wildlife and playing in the water.

Even BOSAC members aren’t sure how they feel, although they did agree to recommend the recreation plan – with a stipulation that leashed dogs must stay on Interstate – if the plan can be changed in the future.

Such “adaptive management plans” are designed to be more flexible than other, “absolute” rules, said Open Space and Trails Planner Heide Andersen.

Allowing dogs – even on leashes – will require enforcement, an issue about which BOSAC members were both ambivalent and skeptical.

“If cops were up there patrolling, that’ll be the end of my vision for Cucumber Gulch,” said BOSAC member and town councilmember J.B. Katz. “I was thinking about this, thinking about when (current BOSAC member) Ellen (Hollinshead) was trying to get the open space tax going: Is this what you had in mind?”

Others agreed, saying they’d prefer a ranger roaming the area to ensure people are complying with leash laws.

BOSAC member Dennis Kuhn said he wonders if the gulch should be closed to dogs and bicyclists.

“This isn’t going to be popular,” he said, “but I think we have enough places in the county to take dogs and ride bikes.”

Hollinshead said she still wants the plan to include trails set to be eliminated because they are redundant. Of note is one at the westernmost end of the gulch and another that could be used as a dog area near the Peaks Trail to the north.

“I fell in love with Cucumber Gulch while walking my dog,” Hollinshead said. “I can’t believe I won’t be able to go there anymore.”

Creating a dog area near the Peaks Trail, however, has its own set of obstacles, Andersen said. Some include a required variance because that area is within the Protective Management Area. The trail segment also drops to the wetlands and future plans will eliminate a trail that links this area to Interstate – making it less desirable for dog walkers.

BOSAC members ultimately agreed to pass the document to the town council, but only after ensuring that language within it ensured the plan is a living document and subject to change in the future.

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or

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