More trees to come down at Chatfield

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Flood-control efforts irk users of dog park

By Emile Hallez

  A stretch of trees in Chatfield State Park’s popular dog park along the South Platte River is doomed.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be felling Russian olives and other trees on the south side of the river as soon as weather permits to decrease the flood risk in the area.

But at least one South Jeffco resident is not happy about the impending removal.

“Everybody who goes out there loves that stretch,” said Lynette Galisewski, who takes her dog, Koda, to the park daily for exercise. “It’s everybody’s favorite stretch.”

In the summer, she said, many visitors let their dogs splash in the river, as the nearby ponds quickly become murky. The trees currently provide a small measure of shade.

Late last year, trees along the river’s north side were removed.

“It’s just such a butcher job on that north side. I’d hate to see that happen to the south side as well,” Galisewski said.

Despite the trees’ aesthetic appeal, they present a flood risk to the area, said civil engineer Dan Johnson.

“The Chatfield Dam was constructed for flood protection. (The stretch of river is) part of the constructed channel,” he said. “It was designed without the trees in there. … The trees reduce the ability to send the current amount of water downstream.”

Whether visitors are upset by the disappearance of the wooded area is of less concern than maintaining public safety, he said. Environmental concerns, such as ensuring that the endangered Preble’s meadow jumping mouse species wasn’t living in the area, also were examined, he said.

“The actual flood protection is the major determining factor,” Johnson said. “Making sure people are safe is more important.”

Popularity of the dog park has exploded in recent years, and potential concerns such as conflicts among dogs, their owners and other users of park space were evaluated in a 2008 survey. Changes to the dog park area this year could include additional fencing, gates, new paths or a reduction in the size of the actual dog-friendly area.

“We are hoping to present some information to the parks board here in January,” said assistant park manager Keith Kahler.

Upcoming modifications to the area would likely be made in the summer, he said.

The off-leash dog park, which originally was created as a hunting-dog training area, is currently Chatfield’s most heavily used attraction. Managing potential conflicts from bike accidents, dog bites and dogfights is essential to preserving safe and successful use of the area, he said.

“It is very busy,” Kahler said. “And this time of year it represents our biggest activity.”


Contact Emile Hallez Williams at emile@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22. Check www.ColumbineCourier.com for updates.