FRIENDS OF EVERGREEN DOG PARK ORGANIZING PUBLIC RALLY TO PROTEST PARK CLOSURE AND PROMOTE VISIONARY STEWARDSHIP PLAN
Mar. 27, 2017, Evergreen, Colo. – Friends of Evergreen Dog Park (FEDP), a Colorado non-profit, will host a public rally Saturday, April 1, at 2 p.m. to protest the planned permanent closure April 4 of the entire 107-acre Elk Meadow Park Off-Leash Area, which has been a popular off-leash dog park and outdoor-enthusiast destination for 30 years.
FEDP and its supporters are asking Jefferson County Open Space (JCOS) to call off its drastic April 4 closure and reconsider our plan to safely and sustainably manage the park. FEDP has developed an innovative plan to comprehensively address all of the concerns raised by JCOS in January 2017. The group envisions transforming the park into a national model for community-based management, maintenance, education, and preservation.
“We have proposed a novel, visionary and community-based plan to properly manage the park and elevate it to where it belongs – the most sustainable, beautiful, creative, significant off-leash open space in the United States,” said Douglas Turner, FEDP board vice president. “We have been – and remain – ready to implement this plan on April 4. We’re simply asking the Jefferson County Commissioners to allow those of us who enjoy the park every day, to preserve and protect it.”
It was regular park users who first raised cleanliness concerns to the County early last fall and organized a volunteer response, at the request of JCOS.
“The community immediately swung into action,” said Betsy Rich, FEDP board president. “JCOS asked me to organize a group of volunteers to clean up our park in late summer 2016, so we got to work.”
JCOS first announced concerns about the popular dog park on Jan. 5, 2017, and scheduled a series of three public meetings to seek public input to address challenges at the park. It was at the January 19 meeting that JCOS first revealed water quality concerns in the stream that runs through a portion of the park, although the testing had taken place from April through September of 2016. With regular cleanup efforts already underway, in just 60 days, volunteers made excellent progress in resolving the remaining waste and overall cleanliness concerns raised by JCOS. The most recent cleanup day, held Mar. 18, yielded minimal waste, indicating that early education efforts took hold and dog owners have become the real stewards of the park.
“We’re disappointed that JCOS used the community’s extraordinary efforts to resolve the park’s issues against us, demonizing the very park users who identified and volunteered to clean up the park,” Rich said. “We, too, were concerned about the amount of waste that had accumulated – that’s why we brought it to JCOS’s attention and cleaned it up! Now we’re ready to work with JCOS and park users to make sure it never happens again.
At just the second meeting, JCOS announced its intent to close the entire park. As it became clear JCOS had no interest in considering any of the reasonable, affordable, volunteer-driven solutions that had been offered by the public, the community rallied and organized a protest to be held at the third meeting. Just prior to the protest, JCOS agreed to keep open the park’s fenced areas on the condition that FEDP manages the space, formalize licensing requirements and enforce the park rules. FEDP canceled the protest, choosing instead to celebrate the JCOS decision to collaborate on a plan that would keep a portion of the park open.
“We continued to work in good faith with the County on taking over the stewardship of the remaining off-leash area,” said Turner. “But JCOS abruptly backed out of its commitment March 15, leaving us with a situation that was quite simply set up to fail. WithFriday’s announcement of a full, permanent park closure, it is now clear that JCOS used ‘public involvement’ as a disguise for its intent – from the very beginning – to close the entire park for good. This is both completely unnecessary and unacceptable.”
“That is why we are calling on the community to show your support for this unique community asset, by joining us this Saturday, April 1, at 2 p.m.,” said Turner. “Now is the time to expose the County’s approach for what it really is – shortsighted and disingenuous – and change course. Let’s work together to create a truly remarkable park!”
Rich added, “Sustained volunteer stewardship, focusing on proper licensing, public education, innovative management tools, a zero-tolerance policy regarding waste and consistent, ongoing water quality testing by experts from Evergreen Metro Water District, will ensure this beautiful space can continue to be enjoyed by everyone for years to come. We stand ready to implement this vision immediately.”
FEDP’s plan for a one-of-a-kind off-leash mountain open space experience is available for public viewing at friendsofevergreendogpark.org. For more details on the April 1 community rally #BARKBACK to protest the permanent closure of the park, visit the Friends of Evergreen Dog Park #BARKBACK Facebook page.
Friends of Evergreen Dog Park (FEDP) is a non-profit corporation (501c3) established in early 2017 to help manage and maintain the Evergreen Dog Park, which is owned by Jefferson County Open Space (JCOS) and located on Stagecoach Blvd. in Evergreen, Colo. Visit friendsofevergreendogpark.org for more information.