$280K project to address ‘ruff’ spots at Dog Park

       Canine visitors to the Bear Creek Dog Park will soon have something they can bark about.
       Established in 1997, the 25-acre El Paso County Parks off-leash facility off 21st and Rio Grande streets is about to get a $280,000 upgrade that will feature:

The entry area at the 25-acre Bear Creek Dog Park is typically full of people and dogs coming and going. At far left is the fenced-off small-dog area. Water jugs hanging on the fence will be easily filled when water is piped to the site as part of a major upgrade to the popular facility.
Westside Pioneer photo
  • Paving of the currently gravel parking lot.
  • A year-round restroom with runnning water, replacing the current porta-john.
  • Year-round dog drinking fountain and dog wash.
  • Holding areas (“kennels”) for dogs when their owners are in the restroom.
  • Added fencing on the boundaries and over the creek to keep dogs from escaping.
  • Drainage improvements, including new culverts and trail rehabilitation.
  • Work on Bear Creek (along the south edge of the park), specifically two drop structures and bank stabilization with the placement of 60 boulders.
  • Utility connections - electric, so the parking lot and restroom can be lighted; water, for the restroom, fountain and dog wash; and wastewater, for the restroom.
           Covered chiefly by a $198,000 Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant, the project cost will be matched by up to $90,000 in county regional park fees (dedicated park fees paid by developers). The county's GOCO grant request emphasizes that the upgrades “remain the highest priority capital improvement project for the El Paso County Parks Division.”
           This concern is a response to the Dog Park's high numbers. With an estimated 90,000 people a year bringing dogs there, it is “the most used facility in our park system,” according to Tim Wolken, whose Community Development Department includes the Parks Division. “These improvements will be welcomed by the many users.”

    An El Paso County Parks aerial photo/map shows the Bear Creek Dog Park with several of the planned improvements (as proposed in the eventually successful grant request to Great Outdoors Colorado).
    Courtesy of El Paso County Parks

           A project start date has not yet been announced, but is expected this fall. The contractor, approved by county commissioners in August, is Wells and West General Contractors. Construction documents are still being finalized, said Jason Meyer, a county park planner.
           During construction, the park will remain open “except for the periodic closure of the main parking lot and construction areas,” Meyer added, at which time “the park will still be accessible by parking at the north lot along Lower Gold Camp Rd or across 21st Street at Bear Creek Regional Park.”
           The project goals stemmed from a master plan that was worked out by the county three years ago in conjunction with citizens in general and especially the Lovers Of Off-Leash Parks (LOOP), the volunteer group that had formed in early 2004 to help the county take care of the Dog Park.
           The grant states that LOOP has contributed “hundreds of hours of volunteer work.” Carl Donner, one of its founders, estimated that the group has also raised about $30,000 from cash donations. A LOOP-generated $5,000 project five years ago created a fenced-off small-dog area within the park. And 10 years ago, even before LOOP formed, park users had stepped up with fundraising when, for cost savings, “the county decided to remove the poop bags,” he said.
           Donner said all the improvements in the contract are welcome, but the restroom “will be the main feature everyone will appreciate, and the water line will also let people wash their dogs.”
           Amenities now in the park include dog-waste disposal containers, benches and resting places, a three-quarter-mile loop trail, a double-gated entry, an information kiosk, picnic tables and a donated ball dispenser, the grant request states.
           From an environmental standpoint, County Parks sees the project as a chance “to prevent the further erosion of Bear Creek. Stormwater runoff and the uncontrolled access to the creek by Dog Park users have created muddy, barren creek banks that do not prevent or slow runoff from the site draining into the creek. This erosion has created some hazardous, unstable creek banks and tripping hazards, as tree root systems are being exposed to Dog Park users. There is also the need to prevent on-site pollutants and sediments from flowing downstream.”
           Also at the creek, the drop structures will have the effect of reducing erosion and creating ponds behind them for dogs to play in. The added streamside boulders will restrict the dogs' currently unlimited access to the creek, also reducing erosion, Meyer said.
           Another drainage problem has been the currently gravel parking lot. “It does not control stormwater runoff and has allowed for potholes and gravel buildup to take place,” the grant request states.
           Drainage concerns played a part in the county deciding not to increase the size of the lot, despite its heavy use. “It's our only way to control the number of people who visit the park,” Meyer said. “The more people, the more drainage issues. We're pretty much over capacity with users now... Currently, we have to temporarily close the parking lot and grade the gravel after major storm events.”
           Paving the lot should add five spaces - putting the capacity at 60 in all, including handicapped spaces - because striping tends to make parking-lot space use more efficient, Meyer explained.
           The new fencing will close two gaps along Bear Creek. “These gaps have allowed several dogs to escape,” the grant request notes. The fencing, where it crosses the creek, will be engineered to keep dogs in but allow debris to wash through during a storm, he said.
           The grant request adds that with the improvements will come “the opportunity to conduct specific dog-friendly events at the Dog Park.” These could include all-day fundraisers, outdoor education programs, obedience classes and nature center programs.
           Future maintenance of the Bear Creek Dog Park is to be provided by El Paso County Parks and budgeted into the annual operating costs of the Bear Creek Regional Park.

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