While a fulsome review of where the city will let four-legged friends roam free is still to come, Victoria continues to show it’s not interested in sitting on the issue.
City staff will look into the implications and advisability of piloting an off-leash dog area at Royal Athletic Park (RAP). The pilot would only use the portion of the park beyond the baseball diamond and would allow pet owners to unclip their pups between 6 and 10 a.m. and from 5 to 7 p.m. daily.
The proposal would also allow those hours to be altered for events or other park uses as needed.
Coun. Sarah Potts, who introduced the motion after the request was brought forward by North Park residents, said RAP is underutilized and the move would make use of the entire park.
“There’s a huge space in the core, our densest neighbourhoods that are going to get increasingly dense, and what is noticeable is a lack of greenspace and off-leash dog areas,” she said at Thursday’s committee of the whole meeting.
The proposal stated this slice of park would be a good spot for dogs to roam free given that it’s fenced, gated and has large open spaces and waste bins. Plus the movable outfield fencing could be used to define the off-leash area when the park isn’t set up for baseball.
Some councillors weren’t happy with another singular site being considered when the city, in 2023, plans to do a detailed, city-wide review of potential leash-optional areas. Council last month agreed to have staff look into an off-leash pilot in the Fairfield neighbourhood and asked the Greater Victoria School District to allow a temporary leash-less spot on the main playing field at Victoria High School, which is currently closed for renovations.
Mayor Lisa Helps noted the dogs in parks plan should’ve been addressed sooner, but the pandemic upended the city’s priorities. The delay in putting a strategy in place puts council somewhat at odds, with resident-led proposals coming forward, she said.
Some councillors said the RAP facilities are intended for sports use, but Potts reiterated the proposal was driven by the neighbourhood itself.
The project has support from the North Park Neighbourhood Association, Hillside Quadra Neighbourhood Action Committee and the Victoria Downtown Residents Association. Those groups highlighted the interest in centrally located off-leash areas, bringing greenspace access to one of the most densely populated areas in the city and utilizing city-owned parkland.
After studying the idea was approved, staff’s report on the Royal Athletic Park pilot is expected to land around the end of May.
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