Saanich residents itching to have their say about off-leash dogs on beaches can take the Cadboro Bay Residents’ Association’s (CBRA) survey until July 6.
The matter of loose dogs on beaches has long been a controversial topic in Saanich with the issue coming to a head in early 2020 after Coun. Karen Harper submitted a report highlighting the problems caused by off-leash pups on beaches.
When the topic came to council at the end of February, input from residents arguing both for and against reviewing the bylaw dominated the meeting. After hearing from the community, council agreed to postpone a vote until mid-summer so the CBRA could first conduct in-depth community consultation.
Despite the limitations created by the COVID-19 pandemic, feedback collection has continued, said Liz Miller, a spokesperson for the CBRA off-leash dog public consultation committee.
The committee has taken a “broad approach” to the study by collecting observational data, comments from residents, environmental reports and historical information, Miller explained. All data was compiled into an options report – released June 15 – which suggested three paths forward: minor changes to improve accessibility for dog walkers, partial leashing and dog-free beach zone or full leashing and dog-free beach zone.
Carmen Arnsdorf, lead author of the report, called it “a tool to get people to reflect on the beach and off-leash dogs.” She added that a survey was also launched along with the report as a means to generate feedback. As of June 28, 700 people had completed the survey with nearly 1,200 comments.
“We’re putting this out when there’s a lot of heat,” Arnsdorf said. “In the community, this matters a lot.”
She added that the committee understands this is a “polarizing issue” and wants all sides considered when proposing solutions to the District of Saanich for consideration. This, she explained, requires empathy, compromise and a desire to comply.
The report proposes three options for moving forward but Arnsdorf emphasized they’re not the only options nor are they the final options.
This is a complex matter, Miller said. “People gravitate towards simpler to solutions” because all or nothing seems easier, she explained, but the CBRA hopes to address all aspects of the issue so the solution will likely be multi-faceted. She added that the survey is “not a competition” where the option with the most votes wins but rather a “jumping-off point.”
The committee is asking that everyone be compassionate and try to see the issue from all sides, Arnsdorf said, adding the multi-use park is a positive part of many residents’ lives and the goal is to create harmony.
Once the survey closes, another report will be crafted so the latest findings can be sent to the District as, ultimately, this is council’s decision, Miller said, adding that the CBRA’s goal is to address the matter thoroughly now so that it doesn’t need to be brought up again in a few years.
Arnsdorf noted that even if nothing changes regarding off-leash dogs on beaches, the CBRA feels some smaller changes should still be made including establishing a volunteer beach-keeper program, opening paths through Cadboro-Gyro Park to dogs to permit beach access and installing better signage.
The survey is open until July 6. Those who prefer to participate in other ways can visit the kiosk at Cadboro Bay beach to talk to volunteers, email comments to email@example.com or call Miller at 250-888-4797.