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City of Westminster considering several options for open space as residents fight to keep their dogs off-leash

Westminster Hills Open Space
Posted at 8:24 PM, Feb 06, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-06 22:24:42-05

WESTMINSTER, Colo. — The City of Westminster is weighing its options on the future of the Westminster Hills Open Space. It currently operates as an off-leash dog park, but that policy is in question as city staff tracks what they describe as degradation to the ecosystem.

Thousands of disappointed owners have been speaking out after it was announced leashes may soon be required throughout most of the space.

Amanda Loomis, who Denver7 met at the Westminster Hills Open Space with her Australian Shepherd mix, Patch, said she has been visiting the park every week for years. The miles and miles of off-leash trails give Patch the chance to run, Loomis said, which is why she was devastated to learn of the possible change.

“You know, it’s the only place that I know where you can walk this far with your dog off-leash and it’s safe,” Loomis said. “Out here, he actually gets to run.”

Westminster city staff has been tracking degradation to the landscape and wildlife, a city spokesperson told Denver7. Humans not picking up after their pets is also an ongoing concern at the park. In response, staff is now considering limiting off-leash fun to a smaller portion of the park — about 40 acres, down from the more than 400 acres currently.

“While we appreciate that everyone loves Westminster Hills, when guests walk off official trails and create their own paths, it can kill native vegetation and negatively impact the wildlife,” said spokesperson Andy Le. “It’s certainly an issue but we can solve it — together with the community — in a way that preserves access to Westminster Hills.”

No decision has been made, and a permanent change would require a vote by Westminster City Council. Le told Denver7 a community meeting is scheduled for March 6, when staff is “tentatively planning to present four different proposed solutions to preserve Westminster Hills at the meeting.”

In the meantime, residents and dog park visitors are pushing back against the potential loss of cherished off-leash open space. Thousands have signed online petitions and submitted responses to a city survey fighting for the current policy to remain in place, and several are planning to attend a city council meeting next week during public comment as a show of support.

In addition to fighting for the off-leash policy to remain, they will also be offering their commitment to help clean up and restore the Westminster Hills Open Space, Loomis said.

“I think the community is really going to miss out, and I don’t think they’re going to take it quietly. I think there’s a lot of people that are also really upset already,” Loomis said. “We want to keep it positive. We want to emphasize that we want to work with the city. But there are people that are very unhappy just with the mere idea of losing that much access."

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