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LETTER: Dog park site an ongoing issue

A new spot for a dog park might be the best solution as the debate rages on
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GuelphToday received the following letter from John Farley regarding the debate on dog park sites:

Folks across the dog-park fence are not the adversary. The current ‘situation’ is the adversary. Off-leash survey participants recommended that fenced-in dog parks be a minimum two acres, have after-hours-access up to 10 p.m. and be located away from impacting residential. Eastview was the number one recommendation for location, met all the criteria and more.

Dog owners, staff and now Councilors have acknowledged the constant all day, all evening noise impacting residents and the dog owners continued need to access a dog-park after hours. Dog owners asked for after-hours-access but for some reason staff decided that dog parks were to be located in residential neighborhood parks that have ‘dawn to dusk’ access rules. Even staff’s recent recommended mitigation measures are directly related to noise (setbacks/tree buffer) and after-hours-access (surveillance cameras). Barking dogs, owner behavior and demand for after-hours access, will be part of any fenced-in dog park and has been for every off-leash area. Bylaw officers have been called out almost every evening since Peter ‘Misery’ dog park opened.

90 per cent of all users drive to the dog park; simply count the dogs, count the parked vehicles. If dog owners are driving, why not locate dog parks in destination parks like Eastview rather than impacting residents, removing their park utility and requiring them to drive elsewhere for their recreation and dog-walking.

During the debate for the proposed Beaumont Crescent harm-reduction-housing project, staff indicated they were not housing experts at all. A dog park has never been a parks planning exercise like would be carried out for a recreation or sports field installation.

Outcry from dog owners utilizing Peter ‘Misery’ dog park is understandable. No resident or dog owner has ever stated they don’t want off-leash areas or fenced-in dog parks. Why not address the very real need, give all dog owners what they recommended from the start and give the residents of Peter Misersky Park back their family and home-life peace?

If dog owners want fenced-in dog parks in neighborhood parks to satisfy a need for local pedestrian access and use, then it would make sense that every resident and property owner be consulted and provide approval. Only one fenced-in dog park of that nature exists here in Guelph and it’s located in a private residential complex.

Deerpath skate park was located adjacent to residential. There were noise and behavior complaints for close to two years before Council approved to move the park. One of the key elements of the skate park transition was that a committee was setup to decide a new location. Councillor Salisbury was an effective champion of the transition at that time. The current skate park location addresses the need and our community is the better for it.

What about the costs in both these instances that could have been alleviated by utilizing lessons learned and appropriate criteria development? The financial costs are obvious but tragically, what about the costs to our community? Dog owner against dog owner, dog owners against residents, the destruction of staff and Councillor trust and the degradation of neighborhood security and comfort.

Eastview. Why not, Eastview? It’s an immediate and appropriate location for a fenced-in dog park: temporarily fenced-in 2.25 acres like other municipalities have done, provide dog-owners an immediate dog-park, move to form a committee and work towards possible permanency at Eastview which has other destination facilities, extensive trails and linkage to 5.5 acres at Grange Road Park.

It’s simple. If fenced-in dog parks are located away from impacting residential, the noise and access issues go away, dog owners get what they asked for and residents again have peace at Peter Misersky Park. However we got here, the adversary is the ‘situation’ and not the good people, dog owners and yes, dogs of Guelph.

-John Farley on behalf of Peter Misersky Residents & Dog Owners for Appropriate Dog Parks