From Washoe County:
The off-leash and multi-use pasture at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park will be closing due to a lack of irrigation water. The irrigation for the multi-use pasture comes from the Highland Ditch which is fed from the Truckee River. However, the Federal Water Master has informed Washoe County the Highland Ditch will be shut off in the next couple of weeks because of low water flows in the Truckee River.
County staff consulted experts in the field of range and pasture management to ensure all options were being considered for the future health of the pasture. It is not uncommon for pastures to go dormant during low water cycles and come back strong in spring. The problem is the added stress of thousands of people and dogs on the dormant grass, along with urine that cannot be diluted by the flood irrigation, could cause long-term damage to the pasture. Making the situation even worse was the very dry winter. Use in the pasture was up exponentially during the very mild winter and early spring and there was no “off season” for the area to rest.
In order to maintain the pasture into the future, it will be closed to all public use, including off-leash dogs, for the remainder of the summer and possibly into the fall and winter depending on the water situation.
“Washoe County understands this will be an inconvenience for the many people who use the pasture, but for the long-term viability of the resource, this is the best option,” said Kitty Jung, Washoe County Commissioner (District 3). “The pasture will be closed to all uses, with the exception of a Cyclocross event and the Great Reno Balloon Race. County staff is actively working with these two important community organizations to ensure that the events can still occur, while providing minimal impact to the area as possible.”