We're getting dizzy skiing the same short loop over and over again. That is why DogPAC is pursuing better winter recreation options for people who ski or snowshoe with their dogs.
A partial listing by the Cross Country Ski Areas Association indicates there are 69 groomed trail systems in 22 states and provinces that allow dog skiers. These examples inspire us and demonstrate that quality dog-friendly winter recreation is both possible and desirable for Central Oregon residents and visitors.
I encourage you to reflect on why dozens of communities consider quality dog-friendly skiing to be a normal and safe part of their recreation options.
Available data indicate that roughly as many people in Central Oregon would ski with their dogs as without dogs - if dog skiers have quality opportunities. More than 260 comments have been submitted to the Deschutes National Forest in support of better dog-friendly access, with over 160 specifically focused on opportunities to ski or snowshoe with dogs.
The Wanoga trail is temporary, located in a snowmobile area and cannot be expanded (we've tried). Wanoga is not a solution, nor is Edison or Skyliners (poor snow conditions), or the proposed Kapka Sno-park (motorized). The forest's management plan indicates that skiers should have options in non-motorized areas, and the forest's own research indicates this is especially true for dog skiers. Mixing snowmobilers and dogs is not good for either.
Dog skiers were allowed north of the highway for the first 80 years of the Deschutes National Forest. In 1984, "dog averse" skiers removed dog skiers from the area. DogPAC supports restrictions in selected areas, but the 1984 restrictions apply toallcross country trail systems along the highway.
The forest's management plan notes that the key to resolving inter-group conflict is to provide quality opportunities for all groups. Because such opportunities do not exist elsewhere, it is time for us to return to our "native habitat" north of the highway. We seek a smaller version of the groomed, ungroomed and snowshoe options available to those without dogs and we seek to achieve this while minimizing impacts on existing trails.
Swampy is the only sno-park north of the highway with sufficient parking. We have proposed that dog skiers be allowed to access the Nordeen Plateau because it is flat, located inside a loop that already is groomed (Tangent) and largely separated from trails that remain dog-restricted.
We welcome discussion about variations or alternatives. We are committed to having the same type of experiences that skiers and snowshoers without dogs have, but we are flexible on how that is achieved.
People using dog-friendly trails have safe and enjoyable experiences through a basic commitment to trail design (one-way and avoiding hills) and maintenance (DogPAC provides poop bags and trash cans at Wanoga and we clear waste from these cans). For those wishing to use trails that remain restricted, a commitment to design (separate trails and trailheads), education and enforcement means that skiers wishing to avoid dogs can do so. We can provide new opportunities for dog guardians while retaining restrictions on almost all 100 miles of existing trails.
Members of the Central Oregon Nordic Club recently had a great time skiing on the dog-restricted trails in the Methow Valley, Wash. Last year, I also had a great time skiing the Methow - because they provide 62 kilometers of groomed dog-friendly trails. The Methow Valley is one of many examples of communities that provide quality opportunities for both dog skiers and the dog averse.
Change is difficult, and it helps to remember that this is not about dogs. It is about how we as a community address change, resolve differences and manage citizen access to our public lands. We will truly succeed as a community only if dog guardians respect the interests of the dog averse, and the dog averse respect the interests of dog guardians. This occurs elsewhere, and we believe this is the future for Central Oregon.
DogPAC has sought to work collaboratively with both the Deschutes National Forest and the Central Oregon Nordic Club. We will discuss access issues with any person or organization willing to come to the table to work toward a collaborative solution. Go to www.dogpac.org or contact us firstname.lastname@example.org learn more.
- Kreg Lindberg, Bend
The author is a local dog owner and the founder of the nonprofit dog owner advocacy group, DogPAC.