The six-member Off Leash Dog Park (OLDP) Select Committee of Council presented their final report to Council, concluding that a dog park would be beneficial to the Village of Ashcroft.
The park “would be beneficial to many people: not only residents, but visitors,” said the report. “It would tie in with Ashcroft’s ‘Wellness Awaits You’ brand, and increase our attractiveness to potential residents and visitors.”
Several of the members were present at Ashcroft Council’s committee of the whole meeting on Aug. 24, including Coun. Barbara Roden who steered the committee.
The group, she said, met several times over the summer, visiting and studying other off leash dog parks.
“It’s difficult to prove a need,” she said, “but the general feeling is, if you build it they will come.”
She said the committee determined that dog parks bring people together and add a sense of community. It would also be a draw to tourists who plan their travels around places which offer dog friendly facilities.
A dog park would be a safe place for Ashcroft dog owners to let their dogs off leash, she added, and would be a good place for dog owners with mobility issues, enabling them to let their dogs off leash to get proper exercise while providing these dog owners with a chance to sit and socialize with others.
Roden said there are already “several de facto dog parks in town,” including one that doesn’t allow dogs. The feeling of the committee is that a a dog park would alleviate traffic in these other places.
They recommended against a multi use park, saying that their research into other dog parks concluded that most were single use and definitely not a place for children.
The group recommended that a Stewardship group be formed to be responsible for the park, and it would be this group who would enter into discussion with the Village about the eventual use of the north end of the lower pool park for the dog park. This group would also look for ways of funding it.
“This would make use of a currently underutilized piece of park land,” said the report, “with minimal impact on those who do use it, if the soccer posts can be moved to the other end of the field. It would impact few residences, and would not impede students on their way to school via Western.”
Of the seven sites the committee looked at, the north end of lower pool park seemed to be the best location. The original proposal asked for the south end.
“Who’s going to police it?” asked Coun. Doreen Lambert.
Based on their research, it would be the people who use it, said committee member Kitty Murray. “We think it would mean more dogs would be licensed if they wanted to use the park.”
Member of the public, Gloria Mertens asked how many people they expected to use the park.
Roden replied there were 112 dogs licensed in Ashcroft last year, but there were certainly more than 112 dogs in town. She said they spoke to people who said they’d never heard of dog park plans but thought they might use it once it was available.
Mertens asked why they discarded the idea of placing the park on the Dunes.
Roden said it was the potential for residential development that eliminated the Dunes.
Committee member Jessica Clement added that the Dunes would take the most amount of physical labour to turn it into a park.
The pool park is close to the Assisted Living units, said Murray. Many of those residents have dogs but can’t walk them for long periods of time. The park, she said, will also be attractive to tourists.
Other areas looked at included Legacy Park, the former rodeo grounds, the ‘cemetery’ site on the mesa, and the elementary school grounds.
The report also suggested raising the cost of dog licenses.
Ashcroft currently charges $5 per year for a license for a spayed/neutered dog, and $20 for an unspayed/un-neutered dog, and these rates have not been undated since 1990. Cache Creek and Lillooet charge $15/$30 said the report, while Kamloops charges $30/$65. “An increase in costs, with a portion going to an OLDP Stewardship group, would seem in order.”
“The Stewardship group should have a plan setting out a timeline, funding initiatives, and a proposal for a formal agreement with the Village regarding the construction and maintenance of an OLDP,” the report recommended.