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City council votes to keep 400 acres as open space, dog park

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Monday was just the first reading of the plan. It will need to pass the second reading before it can be officially approved by the city of Westminster.

WESTMINSTER, Colo. — The Westminster City Council is moving forward with plans to designate the 400-acre area in Westminster Hills as open space – including an off-leash dog area and natural space. 

Monday night, council voted to redesignate the 400-acre parcel used by locals as an off-leash dog area and natural space. The plan will need to pass a second reading before being officially approved. Following final approval, the city will develop a plan and budget to support the changes to the park. 

The original proposal from the city’s Parks, Trails and Open Space Department would have drastically reduced that off-leash area, limiting it to a small corner of the existing space.

The city presented four concepts for community feedback that incorporated many of the ideas that the city received from residents earlier this month. 

Some of the ideas included shrinking the off-leash area from more than 400 acres to 33 acres, shrinking the off-leash area to a space bigger than 33 acres, or closing the space to dogs entirely while creating off-leash areas throughout the city. 

The city’s survey revealed 47% of those surveyed wanted to see it untouched. 

Joe Reale, the city’s open space superintendent, said the city had increasing concerns about the impact off-leash dogs were having on the landscape, wildlife and ecosystem. He said more than 1 million people visited the park last year.

Reale said the city found that the dogs off-leash were having a negative impact on the natural resources, and they recommended to change the area to an on-leash requirement.

The city said the problems they found with the land in a recent study opened their eyes. 

“What they discovered really opened our eyes,” said Tomás Herrera-Mishler, the director of Parks, Recreation and Library for the city of Westminster. “What they discovered was there was E. coli in all the bodies of water out there. It’s so bad it exceeds EPA standards we have to close water access out there right away because we can’t risk the spread of disease to our puppies or people.”

The city said the paths have been another problem that has caused erosion in the park and illegal parking had become an issue. 

“The illegal parking issue there simply isn’t enough parking to meet the demand of a million people,” Herrera-Mishler SAID. “They increased parking six times at the site, and all that did was increase demand.

Many dog owners who use the off-leash park often said they were disappointed with the potential changes suggested by the city. 

Kristen Cobb is a dog owner who said she moved to the area specifically to have access to the park. She said she would have to find somewhere else to go with her dog and any changes would be “really devastating.” 

“I’ve shed tears over it. It would really break my heart,” Cobb said. “This is one of the only places around the entire city that is like this. Dogs are my favorite part about life, and this is where you see them at their happiest, and it would just be completely devastating to so many people, and all of their dogs as well.”

Find additional information on Westminster Hills Open Space

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City council votes to keep 400 acres as open space, dog park
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