Saanich is unleashing several changes that will impact canine park-users.
On May 17, council unanimously approved an off-leash dog park pilot project for the summer and improved signage in Cadboro-Gyro Park to explain restrictions relating to dogs. A motion to amend the animal control bylaw to allow leashed dogs on select pathways in the park from May 1 to Aug. 31, enabling limited beach access, also passed 8-1 – Coun. Karen Harper was opposed.
The recommendations came from the parks, trails and recreation committee after the Cadboro Bay Residents’ Association requested a fenced area for dogs in the park and for leashed pets to be allowed on some pathways.
In the past, dogs were prohibited on park pathways after 9 a.m. and restricted to a beach entrance off Tudor Avenue. Association president Eric Dahli said not only is the entrance not accessible for people with mobility challenges, it has limited parking.
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
The initial restrictions were put in place so families could enjoy the park without worrying about loose dogs, said committee chair Coun. Judy Brownoff. Now, pet owners will be able to walk through the park to access the part of the beach where dogs are allowed.
Harper suggested postponing the pathway amendment until the federal government and Canadian Wildlife Service completed a study on the impact of dogs on birds in the Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary – which includes Cadboro Bay. However, council voted to move forward and reassess when the report is available.
Dahli said the changes are a step in the right direction, however, he was disappointed the University of Victoria would not consider requests to reopen the fenced field on Cedar Hill Cross Road. The space was informally known as the UVic dog park and closed in 2020. In a letter to council, the university explained the property is zoned for future developments.
Mayor Fred Haynes acknowledged that matters related to dogs can be contentious, but said there was considerable input from residents on both sides and a good debate in the chambers.
Increased dog adoption and park use during the pandemic and a need for public parks to be accessible to residents of all abilities sparked the changes, he said.
In response to concerns raised about the impacts of loose dogs on environmentally sensitive areas, Haynes brought a notice of motion for May 31 asking council to consider making non-extendable leashes mandatory in Mount Douglas Park, Panama Flats and Cuthbert Holmes Park.
“People may not agree, but as mayor, I think it’s the right approach,” he said.
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