Dogs can continue to use the Rainforest Trail as the city reviews the larger issue of whether man's best friend belongs on all Juneau trails.
City Parks and Recreation Director Kim Kiefer said dogs can stay on the Rainforest Trail, near the end of North Douglas Highway, but the city will install signs encouraging people to keep their dogs on leashes and clean up after them. Her department had proposed banning dogs on the trail starting May 1 to protect wildlife and habitat.
Some North Douglas residents, dog owners and the city's Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee opposed the ban at a meeting last week.
"After reading through comments, both written and what the (committee) heard at their meeting a week ago, what I'm going to do is refer the dog ban to Trails Working Group," Kiefer said. "They'll take it up this fall."
The Trails Working Group deals with commercial use of local trails, which is why Kiefer said they will look into the specific issue of dogs on the Rainforest Trail. The Rainforest Trail opened in 2001 and is designated for commercial use. It is near the Outer Point Trail.
The city also will establish a separate task force to look into the general issue of dogs on trails this winter, Kiefer said. As an example, the city and other agencies are discussing a new spur trail system in the Amalga Meadows area past Amalga Harbor that would cross sensitive habitat, Kiefer said.
"If we can't have it a no-dog area, we don't want to build in that area," she said. "There are side trails that would take people to the ocean where otters come out and eat. Otters and dogs aren't a good mix."
The panel also might consider whether to set up an area where dogs could romp without a leash, she said. City code now requires all dogs in city parks and recreation areas be on a leash.
The task force would include representatives from the public, the Gastineau Humane Society, Alaska State Parks, Trail Mix and the U.S. Forest Service, Kiefer said.
The Gastineau Humane Society, which is in charge of animal control and enforcement boroughwide, has been trying to educate people about local dog laws, said executive director Chava Lee. A public awareness campaign might be a good way to address the dogs-on-trails issue, she said.
The U.S. Forest Service requires dogs to be on leashes at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, campgrounds and picnic areas such as Skater's Cabin and Lena Beach.
The state park system requires dogs be on leashes at developed recreation areas. In Juneau, the rule applies to the Eagle Beach State Recreation Area.
"The dog issue is obviously going to be an interesting one," said Mike Eberhardt, Southeast area park superintendent. "People's pets are pretty important to them, but we have to make an effort to make everybody happy and find a happy medium."
Joanna Markell can be reached at email@example.com.
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