Ashcroft’s Off-Leash Dog Park (OLDP) select committee made a public presentation of their findings on May 3, with two dozen community members coming out to hear the rationale behind, and proposed site of, an OLDP in the Village. Comments made during the question-and-answer session at the end made it plain that many of those in attendance were not in favour of a multi-use park that would see a dog park share space with other users, such as soccer players.
The committee—made up of Councillors Helen Kormendy and Alf Trill, Selina Collins, Monty Downs, and Kitty Murray—gave a PowerPoint presentation noting previous efforts to establish an OLDP in Ashcroft and pointing out that many communities, including Clinton and Logan Lake, now have them, and that Cache Creek is investigating the possibility of establishing one.
The benefits of an OLDP were listed, including the ways in which they build community and connections; the good experience and safe environment they provide for dogs; and the community benefits, such as the promotion of responsible dog ownership and a lessening of the abuse of other areas when a designated OLDP is provided.
The challenges of an OLDP were also noted. These included the effective management of dog waste, safety concerns that would need addressing, noise management, and increased maintenance and enforcement.
Requirements for an OLDP would include a fenced enclosure; an irrigated and maintained lawn area; garbage facilities; benches; and signage explaining operating conditions and user requirements.
Councillor Wayne Marchant of Clinton, who was instrumental in having an OLDP built in that community, talked about how they got funding to turn a brownfield into a dog park and the facilities they have there, as well as items they would like to add. Speaking with The Journal after the meeting, he noted that the Clinton OLDP is well-used by residents and visitors alike, even in winter when there is two feet of snow on the ground.
Dr. Ross Dickinson, veterinarian at the Cache Creek Veterinary Hospital, talked about diseases and the need for dogs using an OLDP to have all their appropriate shots. He also talked about how to identify a potentially vicious dog, and it was pointed out during the meeting that OLDPs have a zero tolerance for vicious dogs.
Four sites were identified by the committee as possible locations for an OLDP. The first was the large gravel area at the south end of Railway Avenue across from the cemetery, which is owned by the Village. While it is suitably sized and easily accessible by a large number of seniors, it would be a costly site to develop and has the potential for other uses.
A portion of the Interior Health property behind the ambulance station and Thompson View Lodge and Manor is large enough to support an OLDP, has the support of the management of the adjacent apartment building, and is close to seniors’ and multi-family housing. Drawbacks include the cost of development and the need for off-street parking.
The playing field at the Ashcroft HUB has the support of the lessee of the property, who would be willing to accommodate the proposed OLDP. Many of the necessary features—such as fencing and irrigated lawns—already exist on the site, and a dog park could probably be operational there within a year.
The HUB does not have long-term agreement for the use of the site, and an OLDP would have to share the field with minor soccer and any other activities that the HUB might attract, meaning the dog park would have to be closed when other uses were scheduled.
The final site proposed was the north end of the lower pool park terrace. As with the HUB site, many facilities needed for an OLDP already exist there, it could be operational quickly, could possibly be managed and budgeted for as part of the Village’s parks and recreation program, and would make better use of an existing facility.
However, it was also noted that current users—such as the South Cariboo Minor Soccer Association—would have to accept the site’s use as an OLDP when they are not using it.
From the tenor of the questions and comments from the public it was clear that a multi-use park at either the HUB or the pool park terrace was not popular with some people. There were numerous comments about the potential for dog feces at the sites, which are both used extensively by children.
There were also questions about potential noise and odours from an OLDP, with Val Freestone noting that dogs in dog parks tend not to bark; it’s dogs kept in houses and backyards that do. It was also noted that unlike unauthorized places where people walk their dogs off-leash—such as the dunes on the Mesa—dog park users are self-policing, eliminating the feces problem.
Kormendy said that the purpose of the meeting was to provide and receive information. When asked about the next step in the process, she said that the select standing committee would present its findings, and possibly a recommendation, to council, hopefully in May 2018, for council to decide how—or if—to proceed with plans for an off-leash dog park.