Has Westminster Open Space Gone to the Dogs? Some Residents Thjink So | Westword

Reader: Your Dog Is Not More Important Than the Local Ecosystem

Westminster Hills Open Space could cut back on the area alloted to off-leash animals, and owners are biting back.
Westminster Hills Open Space could cut back on off-leash access.
Westminster Hills Open Space could cut back on off-leash access. Catie Cheshire
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The Westminster Hills Open Space provides 470 acres of rolling hills and trails for anyone to enjoy, but as the City of Westminster contemplates how that open space should be managed, dog owners are worried they will lose an oasis they’ve loved for decades. Still, some city officials and residents believe it’s high time the city stopped letting overuse and neglect ruin the prairie landscape, and are calling for curtailing off-leash dog access on all but 33 acres.

“It's an incredible piece of land that's connected to 100,000 acres of preserved open space,” says Tomás Herrera-Mishler, Westminster’s director of Parks, Recreation, and Libraries. “It's remnants of the shortgrass prairie. It's the most threatened ecosystem in the world. We're losing it more quickly than the Amazon rainforest, so it's an ecologically very important ecosystem — and it's beautiful.”

But the talk about proposed changes is getting ugly, and arriving at a solution will be no walk in the park, judging from the comments on the Westword Facebook page. Says Rene: 
I love dogs. But there are tons of options for them. Not so for short grass prairie, and all the rampant development around Colorado hasn't helped. I'd actually advocate banning dogs entirely from that space *if need be*.
Counters Kevin: 
Westminster's leadership has lost the plot. They used to use this land for cattle grazing, and now they're going to propose a nonsensical argument that some dogs running around out there are damaging the prairie ecosystem. This area has been a unique regional attraction for dog owners for decades now. My last dog died of old age a few years ago, and I was using that dog park with her when she was still a puppy. Not every place needs to be managed the same way, and providing this off-leash option for dog owners is a good management decision so that other areas can be managed with leash laws in place (safely providing something for everyone).

But this isn't Westminster's first rodeo. They started making some weird management choices at Standley Lake a few years ago that negatively impacted the equine users who have enjoyed that park for many decades as well. It's sad.
Suggests Holly:
 Westminster doesn't care about farms, or open space. This isn't a dog issue. They are over-developing and running out of ways to do it. Take this land wait two years and redevelop. That is one of Westminster government's 10 Commandments:Thou shall not keep open space or farms.
Comments Rebecca: 
I've lived in the area forever and have only taken dogs there a few times. In my experience, many dogs are completely out of control. Their owners are no better and don't pay attention to what their dogs are doing. The number of times I have been running on the trail and seen piles of dog poop right on the trail, or poop bags that have obviously been long abandoned, is an ever-growing problem. My husband and multiple friends have also been bitten and lunged at. This area is not exclusive to dog use. Just like everywhere else, people need to learn to share. If your dog is aggressive, maybe your dog doesn't go off-leash. I don't think the area needs to be reduced, but I do think that many dog owners need to be more self-aware. Current behavior is why we can't have nice things.
Adds Cassandra:
 I'm so done with people's obsession with their dogs. Your dog is not more important than the local ecosystem. There are so many other options in Denver, go somewhere else.
Responds Brett:
 These comments break my heart. My rescue puppers and I come here probably once or twice a week. It’s an absolutely wonderful recreation area that my tax dollars helped create and support. And there’s no place like it anywhere in the metro area. It’d be a huge loss to us and other members of the community.

I’m all for supporting the habitat as well. Split the park in half so much of the area can recover, and let those of us who use the space correctly, politely and who clean up after their pets, keep doing so.

Also wouldn’t be opposed to a fee box. I’d pay a couple bucks a visit with that money going towards conservation, etc. I don’t see any reason why it has to be all or nothing.
Concludes Martine: 
Why does everything have to be one or the other, black or white? Why can’t we look at solutions that are a compromise? I’m so tired of everyone digging their heels into their position and not looking at all options. We need to stop fighting. Make it both. Reserve some areas for off-leash and keep some as a wildlife preserve. 
Have you been to the Westminster dog park? What do you see as the solution? Post a comment or share your thoughts at [email protected].
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