Thursday, April 15, 2010

Utah Dog Alert: Salt Lake City planning to take away last legal off-leash area at Parley's Gulch (a.k.a. Tanner Park)

Comments from Kate Bradshaw of FIDOS this evening, at Parley’s where Salt Lake City Mayor Becker held a public meeting to present plans to severely limit off-leash access to the park going from over 80 acres to 10 acres of mostly fenced in areas:

Mr. Mayor, thank you for visiting Parley’s Historic Nature Park today to hear our concerns about the management plan recommended by the City’s consultant. We had sought an audience with you to address our concerns and are pleased to finally have that opportunity.

As you know, Friends Interested in Dogs and Open Space, or FIDOS as we are more commonly known, is a non-profit organization dedicated to securing off-leash areas for dogs and their owners in the Salt Lake Valley. As dog-owners, we subscribe to a simple philosophy that says “to that which you tame, you owe your life.” From this philosophy flows our dedication to ensuring that our dogs have adequate, LEGAL, space in which to do the things dogs do best: run, sniff, wrestle and explore. Our return on investment from our furry companions is more than paid in full.

This park is unique and special to the FIDOS community. It is unequivocally the BEST off-leash space in the entire city. The loops of trails, access to the stream, and variety of terrain make this place very special to us and our dogs. It was through no small effort on the part of FIDOS volunteers that this Park came to be what you see today; largely free of the discarded junk and invasive weeds that had accumulated here for decades. That is not to say this Park is perfect in its current state. Despite our efforts, there is still much more that needs to be done in order for this Park to truly flourish and shine as the gem it is.

It is because of our commitment to both dogs and open space that FIDOS was complete and totally willing to embrace the stewardship agreement the City required in order for this place to become a legal off-leash area. Countless hours have been donated by FIDOS volunteers in thistle mitigation, blocking of social trails, junk hauling, poop pick-ups (or poop karma as we call it), and in dog-owner education.

After such investment in this Park and in our commitment to the dogs we have tamed, it can be no wonder that we look upon the recommendations by the City’s consultant with complete and utter dismay. An area that once contained 88-acres of multi-use space has been segregated and unnaturally divided.

As the largest park-user group, we are now to be restricted to less than 10 acres of the park in two fenced dog areas. How can it possibly make any sense to restrict a large, growing, TAX-PAYING user group to such a small area of the Park? Moreover, the City Council in the July 2007 motion that created this Park recognized a need for additional off-leash space within the City. This management plan not only reduced off-leash space, but does not identify where the displaced dog-community will be relocated. We would suggest that FIDOS has shown a commitment to this Park far beyond that of any other user group and has proven that we can and do take our steward of this area very seriously.

Additionally, we have grave concerns about the proposed lower off-leash area near the substation. This area is intended to serve as a flood control basin in addition to off-leash space. It is widely known by the dog-community that during times of high run-off it is not safe to allow your dogs near the lower culvert as some number of dogs have died trapped against the grate across the culvert. No responsible dog owner would allow their dog in that area in the Spring. There is also the concern that this area will be a permanent mud pit, unsuitable for dogs or people, when the area is called to double duty as the flood control basin.

The upper fenced dog area is in an area that lacks any shade and questions about access to the creek by dogs and people has never been answered by the consultant. During the hot summer months, the most desirable locations within the Park are near the Creek and the shade of the trees near the creek. It is unclear from the consultant’s recommendations whether any improvements like shade shacks or water will be added to the upper area. Surely the City is not intending to drive dogs and their owners from the Park though a policy of heat stroke?

Of upmost concern is the designation of the Southern half of the Park as a “protection and preserve area.” No dogs would be allowed on the Southern side of the park whether on or off-leash.

While the name of this Park, Parley’s Historic Nature Park, indicate it is “wild” and “unimproved” this park never has been and was never intended to be a “nature preserve.” FIDOS has submitted documentation to the City and the City’s consultant demonstrating that claims to the contrary are false. The land in this park was accumulated over a lengthy period that involved several land swaps with the Utah Department of Transportation, private land owners, and the City. There are acres upon acres of land set aside as watershed or as preserves in this City and the County and we feel this is more than sufficient space for that purpose.

Finally, the consultant’s plans envisions construction of new trails, relocation of the BMX park, fencing dog areas, enhanced park enforcement and other projects costing many thousands of dollars that seem frankly unattainable given the current fiscal environment and completely irresponsible in light of the $20 million budget shortfall just announced by the City.

We would urge you to seriously reconsider the consultant’s recommendations. FIDOS has long stood ready to engage with the City in improvements and responsible management of the Park and continues to extend our volunteer hours, tools, and expertise to wise management of this Park for all user groups. We too want this Park to be better; a better place for families, for BMX-ers, and for dogs and their owners.

Learn more about FIDOS at and help protect and maintain our dog spaces in Utah.