Sooke politicians are taking action against recent rule changes requiring dogs be on leash in some regional parks.
New bylaw amendments were put in to effect by the Capital Regional District last March which included 11 regional parks where dogs are required to be on leashes at all times – five of those parks are in Sooke.
The parks include: Ayum Creek Regional Park Reserve, Sea to Sea, Sooke Hills Wilderness Regional Park, the Sooke Potholes and the Galloping Goose Regional Trail.
“The bylaw was amended in order to meet a number of management plan objectives for those parks and regional trails, including the implementation of leash regulations,” said Mike MacIntyre, acting senior manager of CRD Regional Parks.
Following the regulation changes, CRD staff started to build awareness around leash requirements for all the parks and trails through the CRD website, social media, brochures, signs and conversations with visitors in the parks.
Many Sooke residents were upset with the new regulations, and requested that the CRD explain their reasoning.
CRD staff came to council July 9, and MacIntyre explained the process of their decision to have dogs on leashes, saying it stemmed from management plans completed over the years for specific areas.
The management plan for Sooke parks started in 2006, where they held a public consultation in Sooke about issues and interests in the park, as well as a proposal to have dogs on-leash. They held more surveys and public consultations over the years in 2009, 2010, and 2016, proposing the same thing, and said most of the feedback they received favoured dogs to be on-leash.
“Dog management was not a big issue during the planning stages, but most of the comments we got back favoured having dogs on leashes in the parks to protect wildlife and the environment,” said MacIntyre.
The CRD said though they understand Sooke’s concern, the decision has already been made and it would be a long process to change the bylaw.
Sooke council wants to work out some sort of solution with the CRD to at least allow the top of the Potholes for people to have their dogs off-leash.
“From what I got out of the discussion on [July 9] was that the main concern was with the Galloping Goose at the Potholes. So maybe we could look at working out some sort of schedule or dedicated area for people to have their dogs off-leash,” said Mayor Maja Tait.
“I would understand it for the more urban areas of the Goose, but in Sooke it is so rural that I don’t think it’s a one-size-fits-all solution to require dogs be on-leash at all times.”
Coun. Ebony Logins agreed, saying she is struggling with the “blanket approach” that the CRD took, and thinks council needs to stand their ground and ask for something better.
“This is not acceptable,” she said. “We need to stick up for ourselves in order to have our voice heard because it’s very clear we are the only ones who will at the CRD level.”
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Tait said she and council are still reflecting on the feedback that came in from the public on Monday, but they are going to draw up a motion to bring forward to the CRD, to hopefully find a resolution.
Though they have missed the deadline for the upcoming CRD Parks and Trails meeting, they hope to bring something forward to the meeting in September.
“I think this is a moving subject, and we are going to have to have a lot more discussion around it over time,” said Tait.