When you go ski touring at Swampy Lakes, step lightly and carry a pooper scooper. You may soon be sharing the trails with frisky off-leash puppies (and Big Dogs too).It's not happening, yet. But if DogPac bends the arm of the Deschutes National Forest hard enough, and the Forest Supervisor caves under pressure, that could be your reality.
Did you know that 99 percent of the Deschutes National Forest is already accessible to off-leash dogs in winter? Currently, dogs are restricted from a small portion of the north side of Century Drive, including Swampy and Meissner ski areas. There are leash restrictions on popular summer hiking trails. These restrictions came about to reduce user conflict and overuse in popular recreational areas off Century Drive.
A small group of skate skiers who are also dog owners want to be able to fly over the snow with their four legged pals racing along side. They think it's also a good idea to groom a skate ski track from Swampy Lakes parking lot to Nordeen Shelter and allow off-leash dogs on that trail.
The members of Central Oregon Nordic Club would beg to differ. The Club has long maintained, in fact rebuilt, Nordeen Shelter, after its untimely demise by fire a few years ago. Many club members are dog owners, but are not interested in changing the backcountry, ski-it-in yourself experience that is so essentially charming at Swampy Lakes. Further, they are not interested in a groomed trail, as there is ample packed and tracked skiing available at nearby Meissner. Dogs are pretty destructive on unpacked trails, virtually ruining a good trail in short order.
So the question before the Deschutes National Forest is: should they allow off-leash dogs on a trail on the north side of Centruy Drive over the objections of the current user group? Or should they work with the dog user group to create a separate ski area dedicated to that use? My vote goes for the second option.
- Rosalind O'Donoghue