Kachemak Nordic Ski Club hears public feedback on regulations related to dogs on ski trails

Homer’s Kachemak Nordic Ski Club (KNSC) held a meeting Jan. 4 at the Alaska Islands and Oceans Visitor Center that included the topic of dog use on local ski trails and potential updates to the organization’s policy on dogs.

The KNSC website defines the organization as a non-profit volunteer program that maintains over 80 kilometers of groomed trails at theBaycrest,McNeil Canyon-Eveline, and Lookout Mountain trail systems. Located near Homer, Alaska, all three areas are groomed for classic and skate skiing. Each area offers varying terrain and panoramic views of Kachemak Bay and the Kenai Mountain Range.

Prior to the meeting, the organization presented a survey about dog use on the trails to the community that received more than 350 responses from local skiers. About 60 people also attended the meeting for the public comment period, according long-time Homer resident and skiier Megan Corazza.

“After our regular meeting, we opened the conversation up to the public so people could hear more about some of the concerns that people have expressed about dogs on the trails. We wanted to have the public meeting because there was a lot of misinformation being spread on social media and elsewhere and there are a lot of mixed opinions on the topic and it’s pretty controversial,” Bob Glen, president of the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club, said.

The topic has come up recently after a high school skier was bitten on the thigh by a dog at McNeil trail system on Dec. 16, according to Glen.

“It didn’t turn out to be a serious injury and didn’t require medical attention, but is still obviously unacceptable,” Glen said.

The owner of the dog took full responsibility for the incident and was “100 percent cooperative,” he said. The dog is no longer allowed on the trail system.

Long-time resident and skier, Megan Corazza, said “prior to the survey and the public meeting, the board has been talking about several new proposals for dog use on the trails. These range from restricting days and times that dogs can be on the trail to use of leashes and muzzles.”

Of the people who responded to the survey, approximately 190 people mentioned that they ski with their dogs on the trails, according to Glen.

One thing the board did immediately after the Thursday meeting was provide an incident report form on the KNSC website, Glen said. The incident report form is easily accessible and visible on the site and requests name of reporter, people involved, location of incident, names of other witnesses, details of the event, if law enforcement was involvement and a space available to provide recommendations to resolve the issue.

Another topic discussed at the meeting, according to Corazza, was how much authority the board has to make regulations on the trail system or who has access to trails based on where the trailscross different forms of property such as personal, borough or state lands.

According to the ski club’s website, their current policies regarding dogs vary.

On the Baycrest trail no dogs are allowed on Sunset Loop, Far Side and Awesome to Midway. Dogs are allowed on the remainder of the Baycrest trail system. Dogs are allowed on McNeil trail and on Eveline State Recreation Site. On the Lookout Mountain Trail system, no dogs or snowshoes are allowed. Dogs are not recommended on the Baycrest-Lookout Connector trail.

The most recent rules related to dog use on the trail system were made in 2009, according to Glen. “There was a quote from the board minutes from Jan Spurkland that said it took a year and a half to come up with a resolution to dog policy,” Glen said.

Prior to the meeting last week, Glen said he searched board meetings going back to 2008. The December bite incident was the first one referred to the board.

“I saw hundreds of comments about dogs not being cleaned up after or dog waste or aggressive dogs, and in that case the dog owner agreed to leash his dog, but this was the first reported bite that made it to the attention of the board and in this case I heard about it in less than an hour.”

In the course of responding to the most recent incident, it was brought to the board’s attention that there was another bite that happened earlier in November. The board has also talked to that dog owner, who is being cooperative and is currently banned from the trail system, Glen said.

He said the board does need to update its policies regarding dog bites, but for now the dogs involved in the incidents will stay off the trails.

“We’re looking at our rules but the whole thing is going to take time and we plan to do it properly and thoroughly. There is obviously interest on both sides of the issue. In both of the cases this year, we did have rules in place that dogs need to be controlled on the trails and when that rule was broken we dealt with the incident pretty effectively.”

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