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Cycling, off-leash policies proposed for Oakmont’s Dark Hollow Woods

Tribune-Review
| Friday, December 7, 2018 8:54 a.m
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Dark Hollow Woods in Oakmont could become more dog- and bicycle-friendly next year.

Borough recreation board members Tony Lascola and Ryan Erlich proposed policies for cycling and off-leash times in the woods near Crystal Drive.

“There’s a current policy enacted by council several years ago stating all dogs must be on-leash in the woods,” Erlich explained at a workshop meeting Dec. 3. “That policy has proven difficult to enforce with the woods being a vast area. There’s a number of dogs off-leash up there today, and there’s also residents who have a fear or dislike of dogs and don’t want to go up there because dogs may be off-leash. The policy we’re putting forth today tries to strike a compromise between those two groups.”

Dogs would be allowed off-leash from sunrise to 11 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to dusk daily, according to the proposal.

Owners must carry one leash per dog at all times and a maximum of two dogs per handler at any time. Dogs would be on-leash within 100 feet of the Dark Hollow parking lot.

Erlich said surveys and emails sent to residents found more than 50 people would like to see their dogs run free in the woods.

“There’s a significant constituency in Oakmont that desires off-leash,” he said. “That community of dog walkers has provided a helpful presence in the woods, mitigating some illicit activities up there. Encouraging a constituency like this would be a beneficial thing.”

There are signs in Dark Hollow to remind dog owners to keep them on a leash and to clean up after them.

An ordinance that would have permitted dogs off-leash in Dark Hollow Park was presented to council in 2014. Borough documents indicate it never went up for a vote.

Lascola said bikes have been prohibited in Dark Hollow and on its trails for decades. Bikes also are not allowed on sidewalks.

He said Falling Springs is too steep for novice riders, and Dark Hollow would be a great place to learn to mountain bike.

“We don’t expect the park will be overrun by people on bicycles, but it is nice to have a place to ride in Oakmont,” Lascola said. He also cited the coming pump track at Creekside Park along Dark Hollow Road.

A pump track is a continuous loop of dirt berms and mounds bicyclists can ride without pedaling. Its name comes from the pumping motion used by the rider’s upper and lower body as they ride around the track.

“There’s great synergy with the pump track that will be coming, hopefully toward the end of next year,” he said. “That will be a big feature for bicycles in the lower park.”

Some residents said bicycling in Dark Hollow would not be welcomed due to the potential for close calls with walkers along the trail

Lascola said cyclists would have to yield to all other trail users and not ride on muddy trails.

The proposal also states trail hours would be after 3 p.m. on weekdays, and all day on weekends and national holidays.

Councilman Tim Favo suggested a trial period be implemented so the board could gauge public reaction and policy effectiveness.

Councilman George Coulter said he would like time to hear from more residents about the proposal before voting. Fellow council members agreed and supported the recreational effort.

“I like the idea of having a trial run, just to get a sense of it to see how it works (and) if there’s any rough spots that need to be sorted out and to refine it as time goes forward,” council Vice President Patricia Friday said. “I think that’s the only way to know if it could possibly work — test it out.”

Lascola and Erlich said they left the workshop meeting feeling optimistic about their proposal. A trial run would last six months.

Council is expected to revisit the policies after the next recreation board meeting, which is set for 7 p.m. Jan. 16, at the borough building, 767 Fifth St.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, mdivittorio@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.

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