By the end of July, Denver’s park rangers had given out nearly three times as many dog off leash tickets as all of 2022, and a recent accounting of those tickets show the most are being given out in Cheesman Park.
“We care about our parks, we love them,” said Morgan Aurich, who has been a Denver Park Ranger since March.
She said the high volume of tickets is due to a number of factors, but primarily complaints. Aurich said off leash dogs is the No. 1 complaint to Denver’s 311 system and the number one complaint from park users.
In 2022, Denver Park Rangers handed out 164 off leash citations. Through July 31, 448 off leash citations had been issued, according to Cynthia Karvaski with Denver’s Parks and Recreation department.
Karvaski and Aurich say one reason there are so many more DOL tickets this year is because the number of park rangers was significantly increased. Aurich estimated a staff of 20 has been increased to 40-50 rangers patrolling Denver parks. Karvaski said as Denver’s population increases, so does Denver’s dog population thanks to more pet-friendly apartment buildings, restaurants and other dog friendly amenities. While Karvaski said Denver Park Rangers generally issue warnings, the increase in violations and complaints has led to an increase in actual citations, each costing $100.
The message seems to be getting through to some dog owners.
“I never take her off leash in the park,” said Peter Middlebrook recently as he walked his dog through Cheesman Park. “They give a lot of tickets down here. They run a pretty tight ship.”
As Kate Moran walked her dog around Cheesman Park, she said she always keeps her dog leashed and supports the rangers’ efforts.
“I’m very appreciative of it. It’s a safety factor for everybody.”
She said her dog had been bitten twice in Cheesman by other dogs that were not leashed.
Moran noted that Denver has many dog parks for people who want to let their dogs off leash.
An analysis of dog off leash tickets for May, June and July showed that the most — by far — were handed out in Cheesman Park as 31 citations were issued. The next highest location for tickets was Sloan’s Lake with 18 citations, followed by Sunken Gardens Park with 12, Cranmer Park with 10 and Ciancio Park with 8.
Heavily used Washington Park only had two DOL citations issued this summer.
Aurich said “Wash Park is a lot harder to attack than Cheesman,” noting that it is a “cumbersome space” and sometimes so busy that it’s difficult to pursue violators. She said Cheesman is an easier area to enforce due to its configuration and usage. She said rangers check social media pages like Facebook and NextDoor to see what dog owners are planning.
“It’s the best way we can determine when they are going to be out here”, she said.
Aurich said off leash dogs can lessen park use.
“People stay away from parks if they are afraid of dogs,” she said.