The meeting with Jim Foote of the BLM on 3/14/12 was a mixed bag. We made the front page of the Desert Sun newspaper, which is great. You can read the coverage by the Desert Sun here (and there’s some great dog photos!) About 50 dog-lovers showed up, with as many of their faithful companions, to discuss re-opening trails to off-leash hiking with dogs.
Mr. Foote brought good news: his office is thinking about re-opening the Hopalong Cassidy trail up to the cross to dogs. This is huge! He conceded that there’s no threat to Big Horn Sheep on that stretch of the Hopalong, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be open to dogs.
Our tougher problem is being able to hike with our dogs off-leash. At this point in the discussion, it was pretty clear that Mr. Foote had come to the meeting to throw us a bone (pun intended) but not to hear what we had to say. He offered a lot of reasons why off-leash trail access is not even open for consideration, most of which were anecdotal “bad experiences”. We were able to offer our own anectodotes about the hazards of walking narrow, steep trails with dogs ON leash, but these weren’t heard. I will be looking into the basis for existing leash laws on BLM & Palm Desert property, and will report on that here.
A glimmer of hope exists: when pressed about at least being able to extend the off-leash rules of the dog park up to the first palapa at Engstrom Point, he alerted us that this is not under the jurisdication of the BLM, but the City of Palm Desert. So we will be taking our case there!