Staff Photo by Dan Henry Jim Fisher walks along the Tennessee Riverwalk on Tuesday. Mr. Fisher typically uses the path three times a week.
Josh Hildebrandt loaded his bike onto his car Wednesday on the Riverwalk just 20 feet away from a sign posted saying "No Pets."
But Mr. Hildebrandt, a Red Bank resident who bikes the Riverwalk three to four times a week, said he doesn't see why pets shouldn't be allowed. Mr. Hildebrandt, whose family owns three dogs, said he would bring the pets to the park if he could.
Nearly half the people who responded to an unscientific survey by University of Tennessee at Chattanooga students agree.
UTC students in a Health and Human Services class surveyed people using the Riverwalk between October and March. Among the questions they asked was whether pets should be allowed in the Riverpark.
Among 263 survey respondents, 47 percent said they supported pets being allowed in the Riverpark, 39 percent opposed them and 10 percent offered no opinion.
Bicyclists and walkers were split almost 50-50 over allowing pets, while runners overwhelmingly favored them.
"I would have assumed bicyclists would prefer not to have pets on the trail and walkers would prefer them," Stefanie deOlloqui, adjunct professor in UTC's College of Health and Human Performance, said.
The study will continue to track Riverpark data until the end of the spring semester in 2010.
Chattanooga and Hamilton County jointly maintain the Riverwalk, with the county responsible for the portion from Chickamauga Dam to the Veterans Bridge, and the city taking over from the bridge to Renaissance Park.
City Parks and Recreation Administrator Larry Zehnder said the pet ban applies to the whole park and neither government is likely to change it anytime soon.
"It's due to the congestion and variety of users," he said.
Preventing contamination from pet waste is a key issue, he said. Many festivals take place at Ross's Landing and on the North Shore. And waste could enter the Tennessee River, he said.
County Parks and Recreation Director Ron Priddy said a committee of city and county representatives decides what's allowed on the Riverwalk.
He said the group would consider data from the survey and might discuss options such as designated areas for pets.
"That is a possibility," he said. "That doesn't mean it will happen."
Finishing her bike ride Wednesday, Jeannie Potter, of Ooltewah, said she would not want dogs on the walkway. She foresees having to avoid leashed dogs and their messes.
"It's well groomed and we're lucky to have a city that takes care of a place like this," Mrs. Potter said.
BY THE NUMBERS
A survey of 263 people by University of Tennessee at Chattanooga students found the majority supported pets in parks. The survey results were:
* 47 percent: In favor
* 39 percent: Opposed
* 10 percent: No opinion
Source: Riverpark Usage Data Project