Enzo goes for a walk with Sara Mickelson, left, and Maura Concialdi and her son Samuel Concialdi, 11 months, at Button Rock Preserve on Monday. The city is reporting that fewer dogs are visiting since interim rules requiring they be on leash and only one dog per visitor went into effect.
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Longmont officials late last month reported newly imposed restrictions on bringing dogs to Button Rock Preserve are working to reduce the number of four-legged visitors and the waste they leave behind at the 3,000-acre home to the city’s drinking water supply west of Lyons.

On May 1, the city began enforcing an on-leash requirement for dogs and allowing only one dog per person, which has been met with both opposition and support from members of the public who have submitted feedback to Longmont.

City staff requested and received city council approval of the temporary new rules for dogs so officials could work on forming a Button Rock Preserve management plan and gather data on their impact — laying out a vision to balance keeping the area and water pristine with allowed recreational uses such as hiking, fishing and rock climbing has become necessary amid booming visits to the preserve in recent years, Longmont officials have said.

The new dog rules have had “an immediate effect,” Longmont Project Coordinator Danielle Levine told city council last month.

In three weeks of enforcing the stricter dog policies at the area, the city found only 21% of visitors to the preserve brought dogs, compared to an average of 63% of visitors that brought canines in the eight weeks before the new rules took effect, Levine told council.

Dog waste, liquid and solid, has correspondingly decreased, Longmont spokesman Rigo Leal said, and “implementation of City Council’s interim dog rule has gone smoothly,” with officials informing the public caught in violation of the leash and one-dog rules about the new policies.

“Since this interim dog rule has gone into effect, Button Rock rangers have made hundreds of educational contacts,” Levine said. “No citations or fines have been given to date.”

Whether the new rules, or versions of them to regulate dog activity, will remain as part of the final Button Rock management plan is unknown for now.

“It is too early to comment on what might happen,” Leal said. “Ultimately, the management plan will make recommendations based on data which has not yet been collected.”

The city is paying three consulting firms a total of just more than $150,000 to collect data on the area’s visitor uses, water, infrastructure, zoology, ecology and botany.

Councilman Aren Rodriguez in May noted he, as an owner of two dogs, would be prohibited from visiting Button Rock by the interim policies, but said he is “happy with allowing more time to collect feedback and data on this.”

The city only designed Button Rock Preserve to handle use by 5,000 to 7,000 visitors per year, and preliminary data collected from May 2018 to last month showed about 60,000 stepped foot at Button Rock, according to a council presentation Levine. About 52,000 of those visitors arrived in the 36,000 cars that hit the area’s parking lot, with another 8,000 visitors coming into the area from parking outside the lot.

“Most visitors interacting with preserve rangers and making comments on (Longmont’s online public comment program) Engage have expressed that these regulations were expected as Button Rock Preserve was one of the last area watersheds without mandatory dog on-leash requirements,” Leal said.

While reaction to the rules for dogs has varied among residents and users of the preserve, comments on the overall plan have included some advocating for adding new types of recreational uses at the preserve, to restricting current allowed users, starting a parking lot shuttle for the area and charging visitors for parking, a city staff memo stated.

But the memo also said the focus of the plan’s visitor use component is meant to develop ideas to protect Button Rock’s infrastructure, regulations and existing recreation opportunities available jeopardizing the city’s water quality, the St. Vrain River watershed and the area’s “sensitive resources.”

Specifically, the memo said the city planning effort will not:

•Evaluate adding additional infrastructure to support more users or user groups, such as sport shooters, mountain bikers and equestrians;

•Design new trails, optimize existing trails to support additional user groups or install new infrastructure within the Preserve;

•Nor develop regional trails or connections.

The first meeting for the public to provide in-person comments to the city to guide the Button Rock Preserve management plan is being held later this month.

 If you go

What: Button Rock Preserve management plan public meeting

When: 6 p.m., June 25

Where: Parks, Open Space and Trails building, 7 S. Sunset St.

Cost: Free

More info: bit.ly/2MAthml

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