Saturday, January 31, 2009

saturday on corrals

we headed up to corrals at about 9:30 this morning. we were the only car in the lower lot, and there weren't many on the road. the trail was still frozen when we got up there.

it is really getting chopped up. this is mud. when it dries hard it stays choppy. hard to run or bike on. there's no one who goes in and smooths things out.

paws, feet, tires. this is coming up from the lower parking lot.
this is how things looked coming out at 11:30, starting to soften up. which is when the parking lot started filling up.

we also saw this- these two women took their dogs right down the trail past the trail closed sign.
i was called an elitist dog owner by a guy with a one year old golden who was not controlled when i asked him to call his dog. why can't people just call their dogs without it being a big deal? don't get it.
anyway. it was a beautiful morning. halle, echo, jackson & benson had a great walk and so did margie, caralea and i.

process update

city council is meeting with all of its subcommittees for a review. the foothills conservation advisory committee is scheduled for february 10, as far as we know in the late afternoon. work sessions are fact finding meetings for council. the public is welcome to attend, but no comments are taken.

the fcac's packet went to city council 2 weeks ago. we got our copy on monday. it includes 114 pages of information on the dog discussions that started last february. reading the fcac's packet, it appears that they are defending the way the process was handled.

it also seems, from conversations held at the last few fcac meetings, that they will propose that they become a rule making body similar to the parks board, enabling them to make policy without needing final approval from council. there is nothing about this in the packet we received but it seems to be a high priority for Chairman McDevitt.

since i don't understand what processes are required prior to making policy it's a bit hard to tell what the implications of a move like this would be. on the surface, if the charge of the fcac is to conserve the resource it would seem right to also have council involved to find the balance between that conservation and use of the resource. i am also a bit concerned because this has been such a painful process, and no one is asking how it could work better.

i do not believe that council will make any decisions on the 10th.

will keep things updated as we find out more about what's going on.

Monday, January 26, 2009

more mud

i really wanted to do a nice foothills walk today. haven't been on the trails since friday. but i was too much of a weenie to get out when it was 16 and by the time i could go after lunch it was like this:

and my shoe looked like this:
so, even though it was very tempting, because the day looked like this:

we turned around & scoped out the neighborhood.

i've been told different things about whether it's ok to be on sandy soil when it's that wet. guess i'd rather be safe than sorry. the other problem is that parts of the trail system- like parts of chickadee ridge- are not as sandy and get wrecked. then there's the widening caused by going around puddles, ice, etc. didn't stop everyone, though- saw 2 mt bike riders & 3 or 4 people walking/running right through it. 2 with dogs.

the problem with preserving the reserves and trails is so much bigger than one user group. we all have to pull together and really work to keep what we have. we all need to respect each other and the resource. passing more rules that can't be enforced does nothing to further that cause. there is a real opportunity to build a coalition of users to raise awareness and educate.

the problems we have now on the lower trails will move up in the next 5 or 10 years. if we can't enforce now, we certainly won't be able to as the area becomes more populated and more use moves farther out.

i don't think every trail should be off leash.

people who don't want to encounter loose dogs should have places they know that they can safely walk. just like many people are more comfortable on pedestrian only trails.

off leash trails should not be free for alls. dogs need to be under control. it is just not cool to let a dog chase wildlife or run up to people or other dogs. but it's a big shift in behavior that has been allowed for years. and if we can't enforce better then we are going to have to rely on education. there's not really another option that i can think of.

website up- minimal, but up! so please let me know if you have ideas for content.

off to warm and sunny tucson for the next few days, dogs at spa boise kennels. press conference with swimba thursday to raise awareness of staying off muddy trails.

back toward the end of the week. have a good one!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

update and thoughts

i want to thank betsy roberts, jim hall, julia grant, david gordon and pat riceci for meeting yesterday at the flc to look at possible alternatives for a loop in lower hull's gulch. everyone is busy, dogs have taken up a lot of time over the past year, and i appreciate the few hours out of everyone's day yesterday.

chickadee is definitely off the table. anything near the learning center is off the table. we did identify one spot where it might be possible to connect red fox to where red cliffs comes down so people wouldn't have to leash up to go through the parking lot and then un leash again. only there's an aase's onion patch there, so it will take some more looking.

in the course of this conversation, we had some discussion about how the public process has worked. opinions in the room ranged from "not so well" to "followed models used in most similar situations" to "meetings need to be when public can attend" to "it was fine, only a small group has a problem with it". i would hazard a guess that if a similar scenario played out with a larger user group- say mountain bikers- there would be a larger group with an issue.

i am trying to put my finger on exactly why it has been so painful. parks dept personnel have all been very responsive to requests (thanks julia, david, amy & margaret) and unfailingly polite. mr. hall has listened. some of the fcac members- annie black, suki molina, anne hausrath, betsy roberts- have been open to conversation.

i am not writing this to point fingers but rather to understand how, from this citizen's perspective, the process could be improved. what it comes down to for me is discussion and two way communication.

i don't know how the working group was chosen. it appears that there was only one member selected because she recreates with off leash dogs in the foothills. margie was a lucky accident for us, but she was put on the working group to represent swimba, not as an off leash dog trail user. i know one dog owner who called & asked to serve on the group and was turned down. i don't know how appropriate it was to have 2 members of the fcac, the body that would later vote on the proposal, as participating members of the working group. (correction- there was one member sitting and 2 members traded off to cover the spot)

as far as we're concerned, we never saw hard data to support the original working group recommendation. there was no specific wildlife study cited, no map of sensitive plant areas, nothing that we read in the public comments that supported such a drastic change. we agree that there are issues that need to be addressed- dog owners need to pick up poop, follow the leash laws and not let their dogs chase wildlife or bother people (and other dogs). we have never disputed any of that. we just asked for information on where and when problems were occurring so that the issue could be approached with a scalpel rather than a chainsaw. we have called for enforcement of existing rules from the beginning.

here are a few of the things along the way that made me less than comfortable with the process:

  • i repeatedly requested the specific wildlife study used in the working group. i was finally told by the fish and game representative who was on the working group to google dogs and wildlife "and let me know if you find any studies showing that dogs are good for wildlife". an inappropriate response.
  • our initial proposal requested (among other things) site specific information to identify sensitive areas to manage to the problem rather than look at a blanket response. several of the fcac members accused us of stalling. these members did not talk to us, ask why we were suggesting what we did or offer a different approach. they assumed we were stalling rather than giving us credit for seriously requesting information and trying to work together toward a solution. on a side note- the fcac was later provided with a specific dogs and wildlife study (from boulder) and a sensitive plant map. i am not certain why it was stalling when we requested this information but became germane later.
  • as i have done in the past with council matters, i requested contact information for fcac members. i was told that i needed to go through chairman mcdevitt. talking with one person is not the same as being able to converse with various committee members. the few conversations i had with mr. mcdevitt did not leave me feeling like there was much point in contacting him again. fortunately, i know several other committee members and was able to have discussions with them, but for someone who has not been involved in city government it could be a completely different (and very intimidating) situation.

i do not think any of this is intentional or agenda driven. we have forged a working relationship with ridge to rivers that we can build on. dog owners needed to get organized, and this situation made that happen.

but i am damn tired of hearing that the process worked fine from the people who ran it. it would make me a lot more comfortable if we were talking about how it could have gone better from both sides. which i guess puts me back where i started this whole thing in paragraph 5.

Friday, January 23, 2009

at least we got snow

it was still gray, but at least the snow is pretty and brightens things up.

the other thing it does is really highlight how many people use the trails. this photo was taken shortly after 8. lots of tracks- dogs, people, bikes.

tracks all through the trail system.

dogs leashed where they should & off leash where it was ok. 3 folks with, one without.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


first thing i have to say is that it is a good thing that i have young dogs who need exercise. otherwise this weather would have me laying on the couch eating bonbons and reading trashy novels until the sun comes out. this is better than seattle in that at least the cloud ceiling is higher than the tree tops. and it takes less time to drive to sun.

the dogs seem unfazed, however and are just happy to be out.

i decided that i would make every effort to have blog photos today. the pink hat is a nice bright note against all of the gray.
these are robin red breasts, the first sign of spring. spring begins march 20. it is 2 months away. maybe it's an early warning system.... or maybe that's only true in the midwest and not so much since the 1960s.

lots of people out at 10-11 am!
pretty sure i saw boudreaux & his people (from a few weeks ago) with him on leash. that was great. 2 bike riders, 3 runners/groups of w/o dogs, 5 folks/groups on foot with dogs. all leashed where they should be. did run into a group of 3 women with 4 dogs on chickadee whose dogs were not exactly in sight or on the trail. nice enough, but not so easy to navigate when you don't know when the next dog will pop out of the sagebrush at you.

happy wednesday!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

field notes

no photos because it was gray and nasty without even the relief of hoar frost yesterday when we were out. one good thing about the inversion is that the trails are still frozen rather than muddy :)

r2r crew took out the tamarisk grove that was in the trees along the stream near the pond. good to see the nasty invasive weeds being tackled.

have a great tuesday!

Sunday, January 18, 2009


i didn't get these posted yesterday when we got back from corrals. i needed to remember that as nasty as these inversions are, they bring some beauty too. thanks to caralea ( and of course the dogs!) for getting me get out in it & pointing out the pretty. the trails were frozen and in pretty good shape.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

poop article from the seattle times

this was passed along by erik kingston. yes, dog poop can cause health issues if not picked up. no, we're not the only place in the country with this issue, and it extends far beyond the foothills.

reports from the trails

i asked julia & david to share comments so that we can better understand what's happening on the trails and what they deal with and hear regularly. they have been good enough to pass things along and here is one of the latest. this incident did take place in an on leash area- we have lots of educating to do.

Here is a note to thank you for the additional signs that remind users to keep their dogs leashed.

On December 1, 2008 I took my canine friend on a run. During our outing, a dog that was not leashed attacked my boxer. The owner was on her cell phone and was not paying any attention to what her dog was doing, nor did she have any control of her dog. Soon after the attack, I noticed that my dog had two lacerations a little over an inch each. I confronted the owner and told her that I was going to have to take my dog to the vet for treatment and that I expected her to pay for the charges. At first she resisted, but then agreed and gave me her contact information. She did follow through and paid for the care.

At the time of the incident, she did comment that since my dog was on a leash and hers wasn't, her dog felt threatened and that was why her dog attacked. That reasoning doesn't compute since my dog was inches off my side since I had tightened the lead of my dog. (mk: the reasoning also doesn't compute since it is the leashed dog who feels threatened in these situations, not the loose one)

Thank you again for the signs informing users that their dogs must be leashed at all times. I still see unleashed dogs and even people destroying sagebrush so that they can give their canines a fetching stick.

my editorial comment is that i cannot understand why anyone would be chatting away on their cell on the trail, tho i see it all of the time (well, not at 6 am, but during the day). even at the dog park an owner needs to pay more attention to their dog. not to mention the obvious issue with having a dog who bites off leash in the first place, then making excuses. sigh.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

wed, jan 14

we were out this morning while the trails were still frozen- this is my shoe after going toward 8th st on red fox and coming back toward camel's back on chickadee.

if you look closely, you can see hoar frost on the front of halle's ears and on the long whiskers coming out of her eyebrows.
inversions make me want to crawl in a hole until the sun comes out again- but it was beautiful and peaceful out there this morning. the fog muffles sound and since visibility isn't great it's like being wrapped in a big soft cocoon.

3 of us out with dogs, one without. all dogs well behaved & leashed where necessary.

Monday, January 12, 2009

loved to death

halle and i were on red fox and chickadee this morning for the first time in a week or so. i checked to be sure we weren't leaving tracks- i didn't pick up slop on my shoes, and i didn't see her leaving paw prints in the trail, so we were ok.

i wonder how many of the people who have been using the trails and leaving the following tracks behind pride themselves on being environmentalists? give to nature conservancy, treasure valley land trust, sierra club etc to preserve wild lands? recycle regularly? ride a bike or walk rather than drive? use cloth grocery bags? practice packing out what they pack into the back country? get upset at sharing backcountry areas with snowmobiles or other motorized vehicles?

and see nothing wrong with running, hiking or biking on muddy trails...

the trail is dry in some spots- but this is after everything that came before, if entering from Camel's Back.

trail up to chickadee getting widened out.

the damage is from all types of trail users- runners, walkers, bike riders with and without dogs.

2 groups of mt bikes; 4 people/groups of people on foot, 3 of us with dogs- all dogs on the trail & leashed where they should be.