Dog owners in two Victoria neighbourhoods could soon get more off-leash options thanks to residents hounding council.
A motion passed by councillors on March 3 directs staff to report back, at the next triennial update, on the implications and advisability of piloting off-leash hours at Fairfield’s Brooke Street Park. The proposed leash-optional hours would be from 6 to 10 a.m. and from 5 to 7 p.m. daily, with seasonal variations to accommodate other park users.
That motion responded to a string of residents who, a week earlier, brought the pilot project forward during presentations to council.
The residents talked about how social connections flourished, especially during the pandemic, with neighbours they had never met before when they brought their dogs to Fairfield parks. Rina Hadziev said parkgoers became her support network and would walk her dog when she was living with cancer and wasn’t able to.
“It’s widened my world,” Hadziev said of bonding with her neighbours.
Other speakers promoted the health and exercise benefits associated with off-leash areas and how not all urban residents have access to yards or cars to get to off-leash parks.
The motion to have staff explore the pilot passed unanimously, but councillors did mention issues relating to dog waste, badly behaved off-leash dogs and a sports field being shared with dogs. Coun. Geoff Young noted the off-leash issue has two sides that feel very strongly and both perspectives usually have good arguments on the pros and cons.
The issue returned to council a week later, on March 10, after some residents told the city they had been ticketed for walking their dogs without a leash at Vic High’s field.
Council passed a motion that will see Mayor Lisa Helps ask the Greater Victoria School District to allow off-leash dogs on a portion of the field until work begins on the school’s new artificial turf field.
The motion claimed 300 people bring their dogs to the Vic High field every day. A second part of the approved motion will have staff look into the cost and feasibility of enclosing a portion of Harris Green Park (at Chambers and Pandora streets) for an off-leash dog run.
The motion made no mention of Alexander Park, which is a few blocks from the high school and has leash optional every day, from 6 to 10 a.m. and from 4 to 10 p.m.
City staff will be doing a more fulsome review of Victoria’s off-leash areas and strategy, but that work is budgeted for 2023.
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