The El Paso Board of County Commissioners approved two new park rules that go into effect immediately. The new rules include regulations that dogs must be on a leash in parks and a change in park hours.

“We’re looking for a safe and enjoyable time for all park users,” said Tim Wolken, Community Services Executive Director

In 2017 County Parks began a pilot program of allowing dogs to be off leash, but in control. The Parks office had 81 unsolicited calls about this rule.

County staff, the Humane Society, law enforcement, and park patrons have found the current “control” rule challenging to interpret. It can be subjective and difficult to enforce.

Wolken said, “The interpretation of what a ‘controlled’ dog is can vary from person to person.”

Other local jurisdictions have leash rules for their park systems including the City of Colorado Springs.

“If you’re on the New Sante Fe Trail and you’re going from the Air Force Academy to the town of Monument to the town of Palmer Lake you can have different rules for dogs being on leash versus off leash, which can be confusing for the citizens and the dogs,” Wolken said.

El Paso County Parks will open two new off-leash dog parks this year at Falcon Regional Park and Fountain Creek Regional Park. These dog parks will join two others that are open at Bear Creek Regional Park and Fox Run Regional Park.

“All different parts of the County will have an off-leash dog park,” Wolken said. “There will be opportunities to if you want your dog off leash.”

“We clearly heard today from some responsible dog owners,” Commissioner Cami Bremer said. “But not all dog owners are as responsible. It is our responsibility to ensure the safety and enjoyability of our parks. Unfortunately, sometimes rules have to be made because not everyone is a responsible dog owner.”

Commissioners asked parks staff and the Park Advisory Board to look into allowing dogs to be off leash if they are being controlled by an electric collar. Currently e-collars are not in compliance with the leash rule. “Maybe we need to be the entity in the region that’s leading the way on making this happen (e-collars), if it’s the right and responsible thing to do,” Board Chair Mark Waller said.

Susan Davies, from the Trails and Open Space Coalition, said, “Our advocacy committee and our board of directors both weighed this issue and decided overwhelmingly that we wanted to come out and support this change to the parks rules for leashed dogs. We have to support policies that make people feel safe so they want to use our parks.”

The Park Advisory Board endorsed the amendments to the Park Rules and Regulations at its meeting on February 13, 2019.

Commissioners also approved a change in the time of park operations, closing the parks two hours earlier. The new park hours are 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“We don’t have any lighted facilities inside our park system besides parking lots,” Wolken said. “You can ask yourself if it’s good for citizens to be in the park system after dark from a safety stand point.”

Wolken said most vandalism and trash issues happen at night. Seventy-one percent of citizens that responded to a public survey agreed with the change in the park hours.