NPS launches ‘bark patrol’ in Santa Monica Mountains

Pet etiquette on trails is the focus

Source of this article: The Thousand Oaks Acorn, December 15, 2016

A new pack of volunteers will soon hit the trails in the Santa Monica Mountains to show visitors and their dogs how they can safely enjoy the outdoors.

With hundreds of miles of walking, cycling and equestrian paths, the Santa Monica Mountains and surrounding backcountry are a magnet for people who enjoy communing with nature.

TEACH, SPOT, TEACH—Owners and their dogs can join the new Bark Rangers program. “What we want to do is build a group of role models who will demonstrate responsible dog walking in the recreation area,” says Zach Behrens, a spokesperson for the National Park Service.

TEACH, SPOT, TEACH—Owners and their dogs can join the new Bark Rangers program. “What we want to do is build a group of role models who will demonstrate responsible dog walking in the recreation area,” says Zach Behrens, a spokesperson for the National Park Service.

The Bark Rangers volunteer group will help educate visitors about proper dog etiquette on mountain trails.

“People love bringing along their dogs. But we do receive a lot of feedback from users, both dog owners and non-dog owners, about off-leash dogs and dogs not picked up after,” said Zach Behrens, a spokesperson for the National Park Service.

“So what we want to do is build a group of role models who will demonstrate responsible dog walking in the recreation area. The ultimate goal is to protect everyone’s pets and the ecosystem at the same time,” Behrens said.

Leashed dogs are allowed in national parks and other public lands, but they are not permitted on state park trails such as those in Malibu Creek.

Besides making sure owners and their pets follow park rules, the trail volunteers may be called on to provide first aid to injured hikers and bikers.

Dog2Other volunteer opportunities are available for individuals and groups who want to donate their time and talent to help preserve open space and assist visitors.

The volunteers can contribute in many ways. They can patrol trails on horseback or mountain bike, help restore native habitat or volunteer to work at the park service visitor center. They can also assist with administrative duties and educational programs for youths.

David Szymanski, superintendent of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, said local residents are devoted to safeguarding open spaces and helping others make the most of their outdoor adventures.

About 7,000 volunteers donated almost 100,000 hours in 2016.

“People love their Santa Monica Mountains, and it really showed this past year when we broke records in number of volunteers and the hours they put in,” Szymanski said.

Those numbers translated to a 35 percent increase in volunteers and a 20 percent increase in donated hours over the previous year. If those volunteer hours were performed by paid staff members, the estimated cost would be $2.3 million.

A mandatory basic training for all the new volunteers will take place Jan. 21, followed by Bark Ranger training on a date to be announced.

Applications must be submitted online before Jan. 7 at https://www.nps.gov/samo/getinvolved/volunteer.htm.

Newcomers will get free training as well as park tours and off-site field trips to broaden their knowledge and enhance their volunteer experience. They are also expected to build upon their own knowledge of parklands and trails, agency philosophies, operations and policy.

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