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THE OUTSIDE TRACK: It's a dog's life

I'm a dog lover, I admit it. I will go out of my way to pet a dog and have been sometimes known to carry doggie treats in my pocket, so this article is definitely biased. Deal with it.

I'm a dog lover, I admit it. I will go out of my way to pet a dog and have been sometimes known to carry doggie treats in my pocket, so this article is definitely biased. Deal with it.

About a month and a half ago, a friend of mine had an encounter at Alice Lake with one of the park staff. She had her dog off leash for a short section of path in an on-leash area. The park staff confronted her, justifiably so, and told her that the dog must be leashed in that area. She apologized and explained that she was just passing through a short section and that next time she would bring the leash.

Satisfied with the warning, the staff let her go, with the assurance that the next time she came, she would leash the dog along that part of the trail. It was a reasonable compromise, given the low number of visitors in February, and the general level of tolerance for local trail users with pets in the off-season.

The problem came when she had to return to her car along the same trail. The same staff member was still working in that section and, this time, read her the riot act.

Now, I'm no genius, but it would seem to be a reasonable assumption that someone without a leash on the way into the park probably wouldn't have one on the way back out. Given that it was the middle of the week, cold and rainy, she wasn't likely to inconvenience too many people.

What my friend ran into is the increasingly rigid and unnecessarily restrictive policy toward our canine trail buddies. Yes, there are areas where dogs should be leashed, and yes, there are areas where dogs should be banned, but there is also a certain level of common sense that needs to accompany the application of these regulations. Dogs are permitted in other areas of the park, and, I agree, should be kept out of high traffic areas during high traffic times. Winter, however, is not a high traffic time.

I've heard the arguments against dogs on the trail, from "disturbing the wildlife" (someone should tell the cougars that rule) to leaving poop trails (someone should tell the bears that rule). While I agree that dogs sometimes present a problem on the trail, so do people, and we haven't banned themyet.

Which brings us to the crux of the problem: not the dogs themselves, but the owners. Like any outdoor recreationist, there are good dog owners and bad. There are those whose dogs are trained, friendly and respectful of others and dogs which are a nuisance or even a menace. However, there are far more of the former than the latter, and in our zeal to make the backcountry "safe" we are banning some of the greatest trail buddies we have. If we are going to deal with the problem, deal with it at the source. If someone is clearly irresponsible with their pets, fine them, don't punish everyone.

The Dirt on the Outdoors

With Squamish's premiere outdoor event, The Test of Metal, gearing up, the mountain biking season is in full swing. In a month where so much is going on in the mountain biking community, this segment's "Dirt on the Outdoors" is dedicated to Squamish's off-road hammerheads (and their dogs).

Mountain Biking

Toonie rides: SORCA and the local bike shops collaborate to put on a fun rides from April through September. These are a great training tool and are a good meeting spot for local riders. And of course there's the after-ride party. The rides run every other Wednesday at different locations in Squamish. The events are organized alternately by Corsa Cycle and Tantalus Bike Shop. This month's rides are on May 12 and 26. Ride locations will be posted as they become available at www.sorca.ca.

Warm-up Wednesdays! The Wednesday prior to each Toonie ride there will be a relaxed social pre-ride of the Toonie course (whenever possible) with technical pointers. This month: May 5 and 19.

Tuesday women's group road bike rides will be leaving from Corsa Cycles at 5 p.m. on May 6, 13, 20 and 27. For more details call Corsa Cycles at 604-892-3331.

Test of Metal trail days will begin May 8 at 9 am. Participate in at least four TOM trail days and be eligible for a free race entry. If you need an excuse to get off your butt and do some trail maintenance this is a pretty good one. Two more trail days will be held in May on the 13th and the 20th. Maintenance areas yet to be determined. Check the website at http://www. testofmetal.com/trail.htm for the latest updates.

Teen Test Training Days are presented by Corsa Cycles on Sunday, May 30, June 6 and June 13, 2004. Visit the Corsa website for more info or call 604-892-3331 or email corsa@telus.net.The SORCA Executive Meeting will be held Saturday, May 17 at 7 p.m. at the Howe Sound Brew Pub. All are welcome.

And finally, on Saturday May 29 at 11 a.m. (sharp!) Beyond Valleycliffe of the Dolls returns. Entry is limited to 100 riders who simply love the ride. Epic mountain bike ride featuring five peaks, silly stunts and vertical granite slopes. No time limit but trials style judging.

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