Saanich Municipal Hall standalone May 2021 (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

LETTER: Consistent approach needed to deal with dogs in Saanich parks

Saanich has seen a significant increase in visitors – human and canine – to our 171 parks over the last year. That’s great news. However, we need to find ways for everyone to enjoy their experiences in parks, respect the environment and mitigate potential negative situations involving dogs. We aim to support responsible dog owners and provide comfortable spaces for those without dogs. It’s a balancing act.

It’s unfortunate that the actions of a small number of irresponsible dog owners put at risk the ability for others to enjoy our parks. More often than not these issues are related to human behaviour which we cannot enforce; we can only enforce our bylaws.

On April 28 Saanich’s Parks, Trails and Recreation (PTR) committee discussed some short- and long-term solutions. It’s important to remember we need a district-wide approach to dogs in parks. It’s not about which resident barks the loudest (pun intended), but what will work across our unique community.

The committee discussed short-term actions such as a bylaw amendment for on-leash dogs to walk through Cadboro-Gyro Park to the section of beach that dogs are allowed on in the summertime and to replace the signage at Cadboro-Gyro Park to create clarity on when and where dogs are permitted. We will ask council to write to UVic to request the reopening of the well-used off-leash dog area at Cedar Hill Cross Road.

PTR considered pop-up dog parks as a research project this summer and options for a district-wide approach to commercial dog walkers. Most importantly, the committee considered how we can move forward with options for a comprehensive, district-wide approach to dogs in parks.

PTR will ask council to review these recommendations and direct staff to do further research and develop options. You can appreciate these solutions don’t happen overnight; they require a thoughtful approach and input from our citizens. We need a consistent and holistic approach to apply throughout the municipality, not just in one-off parks and trails.

Ultimately, we want to encourage all Saanich residents to have positive and enjoyable experiences in our wonderful parks system.

Coun. Judy Brownoff

Parks, Trails and Recreation Committee chair