EAGLE, Idaho – Eagle Island State Park is the only state park in Idaho that still allows people to walk their dogs off-leash, but that could change on May 28 as the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation proposes requiring dogs are leashed and dog owners are unhappy with this change. .
This happens due to growth resulting in increased altercations between dog owners. According to the Department of Parks and Recreation, there has been an 80% increase in the number of people visiting this state park and tripling the number of dogs.
“This year alone we’ve had half a dozen serious incidents,” said Craig Quintana of the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. “Incidents where a gun was pulled at a dog owner by another dog owner, a woman was pushed to the ground after an altercation involving off-leash dogs.”
This week there was an open house at Eagle Island State Park to speak with the public about the proposed change and dozens of dog owners came out to express their frustrations.
Greg Cunningham lives on the west side of the park, he has been there for eight years and frequents the park with his dog, he tells us that at that time he saw two altercations and does not want to lose the possibility of letting his dog roam in the park. Eagle Island.
“I’m in no mood to compromise right now, it’s working out just fine,” Cunningham said. “It’s the only place you can come and bring your dogs, your horses and have a good time, it’s not necessary, I just don’t understand why they’re doing this.”
Cunningham told us he didn’t want to take his dog to a small dog park where he thought there was more chance of an incident, he didn’t like going up in the foothills because of all the bikers and he says there are many places to take his dog on a leash but nothing like Eagle Island where his dog can get plenty of exercise.
Eagle Island is a large 545 acre park and is used by several user groups including equestrians, disc golfers, anglers, hikers and people who want to enjoy the water and nature.
Originally, I thought there might be a conflict between these groups, but found out there was not. Most riders bring dogs and let them run as they ride. I have seen disc golfers bringing their dogs onto the course and the dog owners have told me they stay away. of the occupied section near the lodge, so it is really about disputes between dog owners.
“Dogs are very easy to train, but if you can’t, I think you should get a dog trainer,” said Denise Puruski, who is against the proposal. “That’s one thing I’ve come up with here is more education and more dog training.”
Dog owners were upset the parks department didn’t come up with a concrete date for the open house, they filed a public request with law enforcement for more data but they didn’t yet received, this change comes from their observations at Eagle Island.
“We get reports a little after the fact often when something happens they call law enforcement,” Quintana said. “We don’t have a solid case other than our anecdotal evidence, observations from our rangers and park managers who often pick up the pieces.”
Dog owners also didn’t like that this proposed change for May 28 was announced before the open house.
“It feels like they made a decision and they didn’t really ask the audience,” Puruski said. “They listened to the negative and the people who complained, not all the people who managed to walk their dogs here every day.”
The open house gave people a chance to share their thoughts and a compromise could be brewing as some of them included limited hours for off-leash access, segregation of certain areas of the park, electronic collars were mentioned and even an increase in use. fees for dog owners to obtain a tag that could be revoked after an incident.
The dog owners who came forward seemed to have an impact on this process as the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation listened and might think twice about their proposal to ban off-leash dogs.
“That was our thought coming in, but now we’re going to sift through that entry and see if we’re going to change course or alter our course,” Quintana said. “It was legitimate public outreach, we got a lot of feedback and we will get a lot more. be sought. »
The public has until May 26 to submit their thoughts and ideas to the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, you can email them at survey.idpr.idaho.gov