EAGLE, Idaho — Eagle Island State Park is the only state park in Idaho that still allows people to run their dogs off-leash, but that could change on May 28 as the Idaho Parks and Recreation Department proposes requiring dogs to be on a leash and dog owners are not happy about this change.
This is happening because of growth leading to an increase in altercations between dog owners, according to the Parks & Rec Department there has been an 80 percent increase in the amount of people that visit this state park and triple the amount of dogs.
"Just this year we have had a half a dozen serious incident," said Craig Quintana of the Idaho Parks and Recreation Department. "Incidents where a weapon was pulled on one dog owner by another dog owner, a woman was shoved to the ground after an altercation involving dogs off leash."
This week there was an open house at Eagle Island State Park to talk with the public about the proposed change and dozens of dog owners came out to voice 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 in that time he's seen two altercations and doesn't want to lose the ability to let his dog roam at Eagle Island.
"I’m not in the mood to compromise right now it works fine the way it is," said Cunningham. "This is the only place where you can come and bring your dogs, your horses and have a good time, this is not necessary I just don’t understand why they are doing this."
Cunningham told us he doesn't want to take his pooch to a small dog park where he believes there is a greater chance of an incident, he doesn't like going up into the foothills because of all the bikers and he says there are many places to take his dog on-leash but nothing like Eagle Island where his dog can get a lot of exercise.
Eagle Island is a big park that features 545 acres and it gets used by several user groups including horseback riders, disc golfers, anglers, hikers and people who want to enjoy the water and nature.
Originally I thought their might be a conflict between those groups, but found that is not the case most horseback riders bring dogs and let them run as they ride, I saw disc golfers bring their dogs on the course and dog owners told me they stay away from the busy section near the pavilion so it really comes down to conflicts between dog owners being.
"Dogs are very easily trained, but if you can't I feel like you should go out and get a dog trainer," said Denise Puruski who's against this proposal. "That is one thing I proposed here is more education and more dog training."
Dog owners were upset the parks department did not present concrete date at the open house, they have filed a public request with law enforcement to get more data but they have not received that yet, this change comes through their observations at Eagle Island.
"We get reports kind of after the fact often when something goes down they call law enforcement," said Quintana. "We don’t have a strong record other than our anecdotal evidence, observations of our rangers and park managers who often pick up the pieces."
Dog owners also did not like that this proposed change for May 28 was announced before the open house took place.
"It feels like they made a decision and didn’t really ask the public," said Puruski. "They listened to the negative and the people that complained, not all the people that successfully walk their dogs out here every single day."
The open house gave people the opportunity to share their ideas and a compromise might be brewing as some of those included limited hours for off-leash access, segregating some of the areas within the park, electronic collars were brought up and even an increase in usage fees for dog owners to get a tagged that could be revoked after an incident.
The dog owners that did show up seemed to have an affect on this process as the Idaho Parks and Recreation Department listened and might be thinking twice about their proposal to ban dogs off-leash.
"That was our thought coming in, but now we are going to sift through that input and see if we are going to change course or modify our course," said Quintana. "It was a legitimate outreach to the public we got a lot of input and we will get a lot more input I pretty much guarantee coming out of this exercise dogs off-leash will be curtailed in some way but maybe there is some middle ground to 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 inquiry.idpr.idaho.gov