| Palm Springs Desert Sun
Safety tips for hiking and the outdoors
If you are going for outdoor activities, here are some safety tips to remember before you go out.
Hikers climbing the steep, steep South Lykken Trail in Palm Springs might encounter new faces at the trailhead.
Starting this week, the Palm Springs Volunteer Trail Rangers are greeting people as they embark on the path and advising them of the risks of bringing dogs – even friends, on a leash – into the threatened bighorn sheep habitat. America of the peninsula.
Bighorn Sheep consider canines to be predators; seeing dogs may cause them to flee feeding and watering sites, according to the Bighorn Institute in Palm Desert.
Volunteer guards are also educating hikers about a new city ordinance, approved Oct. 23, that bans dogs on hiking trails in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains. Under the new rules, hikers caught bringing dogs to the trails will receive a courtesy notice for their first violation and will be required to pay fines of $ 100, $ 250 and $ 500 for subsequent violations.
Members of the new group, however, are not there to enforce the city’s ordinance.
“We don’t want to argue with anyone,” said Jim Flanagan, a volunteer ranger and member of the city’s Sustainability Commission. “He’s just such a beautiful animal and anything we can do to keep him as long as possible is worth it.”
New municipal ordinance bans dogs on trails
The bighorn sheep of the peninsula live in rocky, low-elevation desert slopes, canyons, and washes from the mountains near Palm Springs to Baja California. They were listed as an endangered species federally in 1998.
In 2007, the Coachella Valley Association of Governments, along with the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy, approved a plan to conserve more than 240,000 acres of open space to protect 27 different threatened and endangered species, including the bighorn sheep.
The plan, known as the Coachella Valley Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan, established certain restrictions on recreational trails, including a ban on dogs. But the ban was never incorporated into the Palm Springs municipal code – until this fall.
In August, the city took the first step in educating hikers about the harm dogs can cause to bighorn sheep. CVAG provided the city with signs informing people of the ban. City staff affixed the signs to the start of the museum trails, South Lykken, North Lykken and Araby trails.
This fall, city council also approved the ordinance banning dogs from all trails to comply with the bighorn sheep provisions of the conservation plan. The ordinance, which came into effect on November 23, does not apply to people who use service animals or those who use dogs for search and rescue or law enforcement operations.
Since the city lacks guards or other staff who regularly use the hiking trails for work, city council staff predicted that the rule’s enforcement “would be through the public advising the city of hikers with dogs, and code enforcement officers get off the trail, ”according to a September staff report.
‘Appeal to their animal-loving instinct’
With no city staff actively enforcing the new ordinance, some hikers and their four-legged companions continued to walk along popular trails, past signs at trailheads warning of the dog ban.
So earlier this week, Flanagan and a few volunteers donned brown t-shirts, emblazoned with the words “Trail Ranger Volunteer” and the image of a paw print. They went to the South Lykken trailhead not to hike, but to educate residents and tourists.
The city does not have a “formal relationship” with the volunteer rangers, but did provide the group with t-shirts and information to hand out at the trailheads, said Palm Springs City Manager David Ready. The city is currently engaged in the “information process,” he said, and the group is helping to spread the word about the new ordinance.
“Our intention is just to help everyone understand that the rules have changed for the trails,” Ready said. “Most people understand this is for a good reason. They are animal lovers so they can understand what the purpose of the policy is.”
At the start of the South Lykken Trail, volunteers, in pairs, ask people if they know dogs are not allowed on the trail and explain that even the cutest dogs threaten bighorn sheep, said Flanagan. There are currently about half a dozen volunteers, he said.
“We’re trying to appeal to their animal-loving instincts,” he says.
If people get angry or challenge each other, he says, volunteers will not challenge them. Instead, he said, they suggest hikers either leave their dogs at home next time or use a dog friendly trail, like Man-Adams Park and Cahuilla Hills Park in Palm Desert. , the Cove Oasis Trail in La Quinta and the San Bernardino National Park. Forest.
During their deployments, volunteer rangers collect data on the number of people with dogs approaching the trailhead and how many of them embark on a hike despite having been advised of the ban, Flanagan said.
One day, for example, they ran into about 40 hikers at the trailhead in an hour, he said. About half a dozen people were planning to bring dogs to the trail; at least four turned around after talking to the volunteers, while one with two dogs continued up the hill.
Flanagan said he intends to share the data with the city’s code enforcement team.
The group’s comments will help city officials determine whether to send code enforcement personnel to the trailheads to increase compliance with the new rule and issue citations if necessary, Ready said.
Going forward, Flanagan said, volunteer rangers may also occupy other popular trailheads, including the Museum, Araby, and Skyline trails.
Rebecca Plevin is a reporter for The Desert Sun. Contact her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @rebeccaplevin.