South Lake Tahoe Parks and Rec Commission to evaluate policies barring dogs from city parks
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The city of South Lake Tahoe could be getting a little more dog friendly in the future.
At a meeting earlier in March, City Council agreed to send the city’s current ordinance to the Parks and Recreation Commission for consideration of possible changes.
The move followed a discussion in which a majority of council members spoke in favor of marketing the city more “dog friendly.”
As city staff explained during the meeting, the current ordinance essentially requires dogs to be on a leash when off the owner’s property. The policy also effectively prohibits dogs in city parks, with minor exceptions, primarily a dog park and a dog area at Regan Beach.
The item came before council in response to a comment at council’s December meeting, where a community member inquired about establishing off-leash hours.
After that inquiry in December, as Police Chief Brian Uhler explained, staff saw an opportunity to revisit the overall dog ordinance — a topic discussed in 2017 by the previous City Council, which ultimately declined to delve into the issue at the time.
However, as Uhler also noted, the city around that time conducted a one-question survey to gage public opinion. The question asked if the city should keep the current ordinance forbidding dogs from parks, or if the law should change to allow dogs on leashes in parks.
Of the 928 people who took the survey, 639 said they favored changing the ordinance, while 289 said they wanted to keep the rules the same. The consensus for revising the rules matched the general feelings by city staff, Uhler said.
The survey also allowed participants to add comments too if they wanted. About one-third of those people added comments, with the city’s ability to enforce the rules — such as a leash law — ranking as the No. 1 most common response. Dog waste ranked in the second spot.
“In short, South Lake Tahoe is a community which likes dogs (by over two-thirds margin),” staff wrote in their report to council. “However, there are many good points raised by people on both sides of the issue. The most salient issue exposed in the public’s comments is the belief that people who are irresponsible dog owners should be held accountable.”
As staff explained, council could decide to make broad changes, limited changes or land somewhere in the middle.
The broad approach would lead to simplified rules — essentially one policy for all city parks. The drawback, staff explained, is that a broad approach would leave no areas for people who do not like or are afraid of dogs.
A limited approach could be more accomodating for the entire community, but also more costly due to the need for signs and other tactics meant to clarify the policy for a particular park.
Items to consider with any potential changes include: extra signs at affected parks and beaches; a public awareness campaign; added staff to carry out enforcement functions; more doggie bag and trash receptacles at all dog friendly parks and beaches; regularly scheduled dog clean-up activities; and heavy fine amounts to offset some of the program costs.
Council unanimously agrees to go with staff’s recommendation to send the items to the Parks and Recreation Commission. They also directed the commission to work with other stakeholders, including the U.S. Forest Service and the California Tahoe Conservancy, with the goal of possibly creating some continuity.