SANTAFE (copy)

Donna Sheeter walks her dogs Fanny and Buddy past Elephant Rock along the Santa Fe trail near Palmer Lake in this file photo.

It’s been a year since the Town of Palmer Lake passed an ordinance banning dogs from one of its most popular trails, and some residents would like to reverse that decision.

Passed in July 2018, the ordinance instated an $800 fine for people caught with dogs on or off-leash on the Reservoir Trail or in the two reservoirs it surrounds. It was enacted to protect the town’s water supply from contamination by dog feces, officials said. The ordinance states that dogs jeopardize the water’s cleanliness.

Previously dogs were allowed on the trail so long as owners kept dogs leashed, out of the water and picked up feces.

“The main goal is to protect our drinking water,” said Palmer Lake Mayor John Cressman. “But because we don’t have the money to patrol people and their dogs, the simplest and fairest option for all, is no dogs on the trail.”

The water department had reported seeing a large increase in E.coli samples taken prior to being treated at the water plant. While water coming out of the plant was judged to be safe, there were concerns about rising bacteria levels.

There have not been any tests of the water since the ban went into effect, Cressman said. Several people were issued citations for violating the ban since it went into effect but the courts deemed the signage unclear and did not issue fines, Cressman said, and the signs have been updated.

For residents like Pamela Ransom, the ban is a disappointment. Ransom said she moved to Palmer Lake for the proximity to the forests and trails like the Reservoir Trail.

In a town council meeting this July, Ransom presented a plan before the Palmer Lake Board of Trustees outlining a potential licensing system to allow dogs on the trail.

“I want to try to come up with some way to bring leashed dogs up there without ruining the water,” Ransom said. “I’m trying to come up with some way for would work for people like me, that are responsible pet owners.”

Ransom’s proposal comes a year after resident Candi Frank gathered 100 signatures on an online petition to reform the town ordinance. The petition included suggested alternatives such as installing pet waste stations with bags and trash receptacles or creating a permit system to allow dogs on the trail.

Trails like the Reservoir Trail are simply safer than town roads are for humans to walk their dogs, she said.

“When we’re walking our dogs in town, you’re constantly having to pull them over to the side and the cars have to stop and wait for you to find a safe spot,” Frank said. “It’s not safe. It’s too dangerous.”

Palmer Lake Board of Trustees member Glant Havenar said she is also affected by the ban as a dog owner. She noted that police, firefighters and town code enforcement have observed a decrease in dog waste, litter and out-of-town traffic on the trail since the ban went into effect.

“It’s saving our land, it’s saving our resources,” Havenar said. “I miss taking my dog on the trail. I don’t feel comfortable being on that trail without a dog. But I have to leave the trails and our community better for the next generation.”

Havenar is in favor of creating a licensing system but said due to other more pressing issues, the ban hasn’t been a focus for the board.

Contact the writer: 636-0275



Jessica is a 2019 intern at The Gazette. She is a Colorado native who is currently a student at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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