JUNEAU (AP) -- Do dogs belong on city trails?
A task force will ask that question in Juneau, which just tackled a more specific proposal to ban dogs from the Rainforest Trail near the end of North Douglas Highway.
City Parks and Recreation Director Kim Kiefer said dogs can stay on the Rainforest Trail, 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.
The proposed ban was opposed at a meeting last week by some North Douglas residents, dog owners and the city's Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee.
''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 told the Juneau Empire. ''They'll take it up this fall.''
The city will establish a separate task force to look into the general issue of dogs on trails, 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 and the U.S. Forest Service, Kiefer said.
The state park system requires dogs be on leashes at developed recreation areas.
''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.''
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