Saanich pooches will soon be able to help test an off-leash dog park pilot project taking place in various parks across the municipality this summer.
During a meeting on Monday (May 17), council unanimously approved Paws in Parks, a roving off-leash pilot that will test the concept of establishing fenced dog parks in Saanich through July and August.
The pilot was recommended by the parks, trails and recreation committee, after the Cadboro Bay Residents’ Association (CBRA) requested a fenced area for dogs in Cadboro-Gyro Park.
Saanich approved my PTR’s motions — one was to establish a pilot project to collect data, this summer “Paws in Parks—Roving Dog Parks. Saanich has over 170 parks. Recent article showed dog parks are among the fastest growing recreational amenities in city parks. #Saanich #dogpark pic.twitter.com/4f2loxLnar— Judy Brownoff, Parks Trails (PTR Saanich) (@Judy_Brownoff) May 18, 2021
Currently, off-leash dogs are permitted in most Saanich parks, provided they’re under control, but the district has no formal off-leash dog areas. Seasonal restrictions ban pooches from baseball fields from March 1 to Oct. 31, from parts of Cadboro Bay and Cordova Bay beaches. Dogs are also prohibited before 9 a.m., at Whitehead Park and the beach in Mount Douglas Park from May 1 to Aug. 31. In March, the district also banned dogs from public tennis courts.
The pilot project – budgeted up to $30,000 – will gauge public reception of designated off-leash areas, determine if a fenced dog-run in Cadboro-Gyro Park would reduce pressure on the beach and determine which neighbourhoods are best suited for such a facility, said committee chair Coun. Judy Brownoff. “I think it’ll be a positive – it’s a new era.”
Pop-up off-leash areas will come to parks of different sizes for two-week periods in July and August.
Staff suggested trialing parks with open fields not used solely for sports, parking and rough turf – Fowler, Gorge and Layritz parks were recommended. The areas would be open from dawn to dusk, have dedicated staff and be monitored by animal control.
Mayor Fred Haynes said there was significant correspondence and public input from residents both for and against the project, but after a discussion, council agreed to move forward. He hoped the pilot project will provide a sense of relief for dog owners who want their pets to play off-leash, and park users who want to enjoy the outdoors without worrying about rambunctious dogs. He’s looking forward to taking his own dog, Beowulf, to the pop-up off-leash spaces.
CBRA president Eric Dahli said the pilot project is a good start in addressing contentious dog issues in Saanich and that the association looks forward to working with the district.
Brownoff recommends coming out to speak with staff at the pop-ups. When the pilot concludes, staff will prepare a report for council with options for moving forward.
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