TVTAP/PAWS Ambassador Program – $2,500
The Community Foundation of Teton Valley was honored to award this grant to Teton Valley Trails and Pathways (TVTAP) in partnership with PAWS of Jackson Hole in order to broaden the reach and expertise in this educational campaign. The Community Foundation expects the grant will have a significant impact on educating the community on a sometimes sensitive issue. Over the past three years, Teton Valley Trails and Pathways has been receiving regular feedback from trail users and through their annual winter trails survey over the past three years that many dog owners were not acting responsibly in managing their pets. Specific issues that have been reported are: people being bitten by dogs, owners not picking up dog poop, adults and kids being knocked over/tripped by dogs causing injury, dogs chasing wildlife, and dogs attacking other dogs. This past winter, there were 10 reports of dogs biting humans in Teton Canyon alone. Additionally, in the past year, there were 8 reported incidents of dogs biting people in the Southern Valley Trails area. Although these numbers are statistically a small percentage of overall users, the trend is on the rise as more people move to and visit Teton Valley. TVTAP also believes that many incidents go unreported based on conversations with trail users telling us about incidents that have occurred to them over the years. In response to the issue, the Teton Basin Ranger District began to enforce leash laws for the winter in Teton Canyon and closed the Southern Valley Trails system to dogs in the winter. It is hard to quantify how long the issue has existed because there has not been quantifiable data from more than three years ago. In each year, TVTAP has received survey feedback about poorly behaved dogs. The issue has been addressed by TVTAP with signage at winter trailheads, newspaper articles, and email communication. Additionally, PAWS has done some outreach in Teton Valley through social media and newspaper articles to educate the public. There is no agency that currently has the capacity to consistently enforce current laws, highlighting another factor in this issue. The challenge is how to better educate people recreating on year-round trails with their dogs to reduce user conflicts and maintain public safety.
The grant awarded will fund an ongoing effort to better educate year-round trail users on good dog etiquette thereby reducing user conflicts and improving public health and safety. This will include the launch of a longer-term effort to meet these goals. TVTAP will partner with PAWS of Jackson Hole and Friends of the Teton River on an education campaign. More specifically, Jess Farr, PAWS Program Coordinator, will come to a popular Victor trailhead (determined by TVTAP) twice during the summer of 2020 where she will manage the PAWS tent for 4-5 hours each time. This will provide an excellent opportunity to meet dog owners and their pets, identify potential trail ambassadors, offer a ‘hands-on’ ambassador training/orientation, represent PAWS in Teton Valley, and showcase support for TVTAP and TV community. In the winter, Jess will come over for similar purposes. Two summer and one winter date will be mutually agreed upon by both TVTAP and PAWS. The two organizations will co-manage the volunteer ambassadors by maintaining a schedule for them, procure volunteer incentives, procure treats/rewards to positively reinforce good behavior, and purchase more signs that can be deployed at summer and winter trailheads. Both organizations will have input and logos on the signs. The Community Foundation of Teton Valley understands that year-round trails in Teton Valley are experiencing increased use/pressure by people recreating with dogs. The need to better communicate positive trail etiquette to these users via an ambassador program will be a much-needed asset for our community. We welcome the positive results from this program administered by Teton Valley Trails and Pathways in partnership with PAWS of Jackson Hole.