California Tahoe Conservancy land steward Sarah Werick stood out on the path to South Lake Tahoe’s Cove East Tuesday, greeting dogs and their owners, offering reminders of the canine etiquette that is expected in the Upper Truckee Marsh area.
“It’s a sensitive area to any visitor activity,” Werick said. “Dogs pose a little bit of an added issue.”
The California Tahoe Conservancy designated Tuesday “Doggy Day” with the aim of informing the public of the marsh’s dog rules. Two of the biggest objectives were to encourage users of the Upper Truckee Marsh to abide by leash laws and pick up after the pets.
“Everyone wants to come down here and enjoy this area without having to look out for dog poop on the path,” Werick said.
More than the inconvenience of stepping in it, water quality is an issue, Werick said. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, animal waste can contain pathogens like cryptosporidium, Giardia lamblia and salmonella that can pose a danger to humans when it contaminates bodies of water. On top of that, dog poop can take a year to decompose and does not add to the quality of the soil as does herbivore feces, Werick said.
Leashed dogs are easier to clean up after and less likely to be involved in conflicts with dogs, humans and wildlife, Werick said.
The Upper Truckee Marsh is home to a number of endangered and threatened plant and animal species. Dogs can disturb ground nesting birds, some of which will not return to their nests, Werick said.
“It’s such an important piece of property because it plays a huge role for the Tahoe ecosystem as a whole,” Werick said. “It’s the largest wetland system left in the basin.”
Owned by the California Tahoe Conservancy, the Upper Truckee Marsh stretches from Cove East near the Tahoe Keys to Barrier Beach near the Al Tahoe neighborhood and south to Highway 50. Lake Tahoe’s largest tributary, the Upper Truckee River, runs through the area.
Except for in a few select spots, unleashed dogs are illegal within South Lake Tahoe. Tickets can range from $50 to $200. Both the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office and officials from the California Tahoe Conservancy patrol the Upper Truckee Marsh area to enforce the leash laws.
Teresa Fiore has been walking her dog Brady at Cove East for over a year. She keeps the little black mixed breed in a basket on her bike while she rides down the path and on a leash once she reaches the beach. She understands the rules surrounding dogs in the area, she said.
“It’s a nice trail both for the dog and the owner,” Fiore said.
South Lake Tahoe resident Lara Walters also loves to walk her dog in the area. Though she knows about the rules, it’s harder to keep him on a leash while she rides her bike, she said.
“He’s a good boy,” Waters said. “It’s easier to handle when he’s off the leash.”
Though, the CTC still has to remind people of the leash law and to clean up after their dogs, things have gotten better in recent years. In 2000, the Conservancy did a study of the area where staff collected 100 pounds of dog poop, Werick said. A similar study in 2009 rendered only 8 pounds, she added.
“Since we’ve made the mutt mitts available, we’re definitely seeing a huge turnaround,” Werick said.