Thursday, October 30, 2008

clarification pt. 2- my turn

my turn to clarify something. after being told by a few people involved with the fcac yesterday that this process has not been confusing, i feel the need to explain.

first, with all due respect, if the public finds the process confusing, it is. what was sent yesterday as an example of the public process looks more like a timeline to me. and it is a timeline that ends in april, although the process did not.

part of my confusion stems from my past experience dealing with various city & county agencies on different issues. i started the central bench neighborhood association in the early 90s, was involved in the neighborhood alliance, served on the nena board and participated in the off leash dog park process.

although i didn't always agree with elected officials, i did find most of them willing to listen. i always felt like if we had facts and presented them rationally we would be heard. i also felt like there was a genuine effort to include affected parties. in the case of the dog parks (and later the first off leash trail committee, which i wasn't a part of, but which i did follow), there was a desire to find a workable solution. that's why the process took so long.

maybe that's the difference between working with elected officials and an appointed body. by the way, this is my opinion, and one that i know is shared by other dog owners. i don't think any of this was intentional, i'm just relating how it looks from here.

this process has thrown me off from the start. holding one open house in february (i assume the lowest time of the year for trail use, so it's hard to reach users who don't read the paper, or missed it that day), not posting the information at the kiosks and allowing only 2 weeks for public comment just doesn't seem like an approach designed to get the most out of public input. i know people who called and asked to be included on the working group who were turned down.

the apparent lack of factual evidence for the working group recommendations confuses me. the comments from the open house, when tallied, don't seem to me to suggest dealing with issues in the manner the group came up with. there seems to be no data on which trails are the biggest problems, what time of day most conflicts occur (or what they are, or how many) or any specific dog and wildlife studies that were printed out and given to the group to read.

the priority of the issues confuses me. it takes different tactics to solve for different things. i maintain that if, indeed, there is an issue with wildlife, we need to understand what it is, where it occurs, what time of year the animals are most vulnerable and approach things reasonably. i understand that by posting a sign in barber park about keeping dogs on leash due to fawns in the area, ada county has positively impacted the deer situation.

saying there would be opportunity for public input prior to sending a recommendation to council, then having that opportunity happen at 7:30 a.m. on a weekday with less than a week's notice confuses me. the fcac seems to be giving the notion of more public input lip service. it doesn't appear to be born of a genuine desire to work with citizens toward a solution.

lastly, being told to step up and doing that very thing- organizing dog owners to improve trail conditions and compliance with the rules- improvement that has been noted in meetings and acknowledged by the ridge to rivers staff- only to face the very real possibility of still losing access- is really confusing.

i understand that there was no guarantee. no one ever said "if you do this, we won't change the rules". but the committee needs to understand that we entered this in good faith. we have worked hard on the premise that our efforts would count for something. we accomplished a lot, especially given that we didn't even have regular enforcement until september.

there is nothing so pressing that a year's probation- tracked and report carded- wouldn't work. the time could be used to gather more information to build a baseline for acceptable behavior and to increase educational efforts.


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