Off-leash dog park lands $125,000 grant

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Easton Regional Park eyed as location

By AJ Vicens

Advocates for creating a dog park in South Jeffco have been thrown a bodacious bone by the county commissioners.

The commissioners have approved the use of $125,000 in Conservation Trust Fund monies to develop an off-leash area at Easton Regional Park, which belongs to the Foothills Park & Recreation District.

"I was thrilled when I heard about (the grant)," said Lynda Fine, the driving force behind the dog park. Fine, who has been pushing to develop the dog park since fall 2008, has created a nonprofit called Foothills Unleashed to administer the project.

Foothills Park & Recreation District has identified two possible locations for the dog park, both near Hine Lake (between West Bowles and West Coal Mine avenues and west of Simms Street). At a June 4 meeting, Fine and staff from Foothills will discuss the options and get a feel for what people in the area would prefer.

"We mapped all the dog parks in the area and found that there's a real void in this part of southwest Jefferson County," said Colin Insley, Foothills director of parks and planning.

The park will benefit South Jeffco dog owners who want to let their dogs off leash, and it will give people who frequent other Foothills parks with their dogs another option, Insley said.

Insley added that the district has sent notifications about the plan to every address within a quarter mile of the proposed locations. Residents can register any objections or support for the plan in writing or in person at the June 4 meeting.

The bulk of the $125,000 will be used on fencing, Insley said. One of the proposed sites is more than 3 acres, while the other is 6.5 acres. The rest of the money will be used to construct a shaded area (with picnic tables and some sort of roof); for trashcans and dog-waste-bag dispensers; and for water fountains.

The dog park isn't a done deal yet, because the district and Fine have to work out how the park will be maintained. The district does not have the money to remove trash from the site or send employees to clean it; Fine and Foothills Unleashed will have to find a way to do that, as well as police poop pickup.

Insley said that if the June 4 meeting goes well with local residents and a formal agreement can be presented to the district's board and agreed upon, groundbreaking could happen by July or August.

Fine said she plans to ask people at the June 4 meeting if they'd like to volunteer to help her keep the park clean and maintained. She's also planning to recruit local businesses as sponsors.

"I'm ecstatic that South Jeffco will get a dog park," said Jeffco Commissioner Kevin McCasky, the main proponent of the project on the county commission. "Many other communities in Jefferson County have a dog park, and they're very, very popular. It seemed to be an amenity lacking in South Jeffco."

Fine is confident that residents in the area will tolerate, if not embrace, the dog park.

"I just don't think there are going to be any problems," Fine said.

Care has been put into finding aesthetically pleasing fencing and finding locations that don't abut private property, Fine said.

"It's not like we're trying to back-door this," she added. "It's a dog park, not a nuclear weapons plant. We want people to like it and treat it as their community dog park."

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.

Foothills Park & Recreation District is hosting a meeting to explain the proposed dog park and to select one of two sites near Hine Like. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. June 4 at the Ridge Recreation Center (6613 S. Ward St.). Residents are encouraged to attend the meeting to discuss any concerns or to express support.