Dog owners pushing to save beloved mountain park

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EVERGREEN, Colo. -- A popular off-leash dog park in Evergreen is on the brink of closure and a group of dedicated volunteers is scrambling to save it.

Elk Meadow Off-Leash Dog Park is 107 acres and includes more than three miles of hiking trails. Many of the trails are wheelchair accessible.

The park sees about 4,000 visitors per week and brings in a lot of traffic for local businesses.

“At least twice a day people say, where can I get something to eat?” Friends of Elk Meadow volunteer Betsy Rich said. “There is no question that the town of Evergreen is reaping the financial rewards of this dog park.”

However, Jefferson County Open Space is considering closing the park after finding dangerous levels of E. coli in an intermittent creek that runs through the park. The problem is likely because of a large amount of dog waste left on the ground.

There are also concerns over erosion of the land and vegetation. Plus, it is so popular, it has created major parking issues around the park.

“It’s a dog park. It’s not for people that want to come see pretty flowers and sit on a bench and take pictures of birds. It’s for the dogs,” park founder Judi Quackenboss said.

She started the dog park in 2001 as a tribute to her late son.

“My son was killed in a plane crash and he was quite a dog person,” she said. “When I’m here, believe me, John is with me.”

Quackenboss said she is not about to let dog waste be the end of it.

“This is a vital part of Evergreen. People love it here so closing it is not an option,” she said.

Dog waste collected by volunteers on February 19, 2017

Dog waste collected by volunteers on February 19, 2017

Once a month, more than 70 volunteers with Friends of Elk Meadow get together on Saturday mornings to clean the park. In February, their efforts yielded 444.7 pounds of waste.

They are also brainstorming ideas to try to save the park from closure.

“We recognize there are issues in the dog park,” Rich said. “But they don’t necessarily need to rest all 107 acres at the same time.”

The future of the park is still up in the air. Officials have not made a final decision about what to do.

They will discuss a possible plan at a public meeting from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Buchanan Recreation Center (32003 Ellingwood Trail).