What happens when a dog park gets too popular?
The parking lot overflows. The trails become warn. And there is poop all over.
“It’s overrun,” one woman, who walking her in Elk Meadow off-leash dog park, told Next. “The weekends are like Disneyland out here.”
Jeffco Open Space is holding community meetings about the problems at Elk Meadow. The first is Thursday, Jan. 19, at 6 p.m. at the Buchanan Recreation Center in Evergreen. There are also meetings on Feb. 9 and Feb. 23 - same time, same place.
Jeffco Open Space estimates 4,000 people bring their dogs to Elk Meadow each week. The 108-acre, off-leash park allows dog owners to hike while their pets run around.
Matt Robbins, communications director for Jeffco Open Space, said volunteers counted people in the parking lot one weekend. About 65 people entered the park every hour.
The small parking lot of the park is unable to accommodate all of the increased traffic, so on weekends people commonly illegally park along Stagecoach Blvd.
All of the traffic has taken its toll on the park.
Robbins said foot traffic off trails is wearing down vegetation.
“We’re losing the depth of soil and we’re losing the vegetation so that contamination is permeating just below the surface and contaminating the stream,” Robbins said.
The contamination Robbins is talking about comes from dog waste pet owners aren’t picking up. When we walked along the trail with Robbins, we picked up seven bags of dog waste that were left behind by owners.
Last fall, a group of volunteers helped pick up dog waste over three separate mornings. Robbins said that group picked up a total of 550 pounds in that time.
“We put them in bags and we actually have a hand scale and we weigh every bag, so we know how much we’re taking out of here,” Robbins said.
Jeffco Open Space is not ruling out closing the park. But the organization hopes to find a different solution. They would consider building more parking, but space is limited.
They’re also considering closing off some areas of the park to let the vegetation grow back and potentially charging users fees.