'Dog free' zones weighed for Grand Mesa ski trails

By Pat Sunderland


'Dog free' zones weighed for Grand Mesa ski trails | Grand Mesa, Skiing, snowshoe,

Photo by Randy Sunderlandr Dog owners maintain that public lands are for everyone to enjoy, but the Grand Valley Ranger District is hearing complaints about dogs, their poop and parking lot behavior at Grand Mesa trailheads.

As the popularity of the Nordic trails on Grand Mesa has grown, an increasing number of cross-country skiers and snowshoers are visiting Grand Mesa -- often with their dogs.

Grand Mesa Nordic Council is the nonprofit organization that grooms 32.4 miles of ski trails on the Skyway, County Line and Ward trail systems on Grand Mesa. Thanks to the financial support of GMNC members, no trail use fees are assessed.

In the past, Grand Mesa Nordic Council has welcomed dogs at Ward and at the County Line trail systems. Although the Grand Mesa Nordic Council has asked "vigorously" for years that skiers keep their dogs from Skyway as a courtesy, there are no formal restrictions on use.

Now, GMNC members and other trail users are being asked to comment on whether formal restrictions are appropriate for some or all of the Nordic ski trail systems on Grand Mesa, to decrease conflicts between winter recreationists and dogs.

"The U.S. Forest Service, Grand Valley Ranger District has received complaints and requests for additional restrictions and/or closures related to dogs at parking areas and on trails on the Grand Mesa National Forests," the ranger district said in a press release Feb. 16. USFS representatives also attended the February board meeting of the Grand Mesa Nordic Council to discuss the issue.

"Forest Service regulations (already in place) identify that dogs must be under physical restrictive control, including a leash not longer than six feet, within developed recreation sites. The majority of trailheads along Highway 65 are defined as developed recreation sites," the Grand Valley Ranger District points out. Additionally, Mesa and Delta counties have resolutions regarding the control of dogs and prohibitions associated with waste issues as well as unrestrained dogs that create a safety hazard or result in bodily injury.

"For many years the informal, voluntary exclusion of dogs from the groomed, cross-country ski trails at the Skyway Trailhead on Grand Mesa, while allowing dogs on other, extensive trail systems, has facilitated safe, enjoyable recreational opportunities for different user groups.This year I have encountered people with dogs at Skyway which has created tensions and potential conflict," Charles Kerr posted on the GMNC website. His comments were copied in a letter to the Grand Valley Ranger District.

"Other people's dogs and serious skate skiing don't mix well. Other people's dogs and little children don't mix well. Other people's dogs and the pristine quality of the natural, wondrous, winter world don't mix well," he stated.

Kerr concluded his comments by stating that at least one dog-free trail system should be maintained on Grand Mesa. Many comments mirrored his opinion that Skyway should remain dog-free, while dogs be allowed on County Line -- with signage to encourage dog owners to be respectful and courteous.

"The problem isn't the dogs, it's the owners not keeping track of them pooping on the track or not leasing them in the parking area," one GMNC member commented. "I suggest signage at both areas as well as Ward Lake outlining proper trail/dog etiquette be installed. If dog owners want to continue using the GMNC trail system they need to step up and start being responsible for their dogs."

Another GMNC member suggested that people who like to ski with their dogs should purchase doggie memberships in the Grand Mesa Nordic Council, to help with the expense of maintaining the trails. "Let those who choose to destroy freshly groomed trails with their dogs be the ones who pay to maintain them," one member maintained.

Dog lovers were vocal in their desire to share the outdoor experience with their four-legged friends.

"I know I and other conscientious dog owners would be happy to step up our effort to be courteous and compliant with obvious etiquette actions such as leashing in the parking lot until away from the congestion, scooping poop and informing fellow users of the importance of above actions. Please give us a chance to do the right thing! We love skiing with our dogs!"

Comments and input regarding "Grand Mesa Winter Dog Management" will be accepted through March 20. Submit comments to: Comments-rocky-mountain-gmug-grande-valley@fs.fed.us or to Grand Valley District Ranger 2777 Crossroads Blvd, Unit 1, Grand Junction, CO 81506.