By Al Beeber on May 29, 2021.
After a week away from the office, I’m back in the saddle. And during that week, due to letters I’ve seen and discussions I’ve had with people, the disc golf course planned for Peenaquim Park was on my mind a lot.
I made a rare visit there with a friend two Sundays ago with his dog and Benson, my black lab. The day we were there, the park was busy with people wandering all areas of Peenaquim.
As we walked and I tried to keep Benson from amorously harassing Bruce’s dog Dexter – sorry Ben didn’t bring flowers and chocolates – I wondered how the golfers and dog walkers are going to co-exist when the park is filled with both.
At many times of the day and week, there may not be a conflict because the space is vast and the lumpy area where much of the golf course is planned isn’t exactly ideal walking territory. It isn’t now and it wasn’t when I was a regular years ago.
And I quit going there because coyotes would stalk my elderly, feeble dog Roxie, who they clearly saw as vulnerable. And tasty.
With my German shepherd’s temperament, I stick to Popson close to home but from April to November, I walk there only when the weather is cool and I can get there before other users so there isn’t conflict between Rio and their dogs, some of whom he does occasionally like. But I’m never sure which dog and when so going to an off-leash park for me is incredibly stressful. Instead I take both around the neighbourhood or to Nicholas Sheran where I’m an early-morning regular.
While at Peenaquim, a few dog walkers I talked to wondered exactly where the boundary will be. There isn’t, and in the years I’ve walked there, never have been any signs saying certain areas of the park are off-limits to dogs walking off-leash except for one that is now at the north end of the park.
Perhaps that signage should have been installed, and still needs to be, so dog walkers know where they are legally allowed. Late is better than never, except of course when it comes to tax bills and spring.
Without that signage, nobody really has any reason to think that any area of Peenaquim is off-limits to dogs. To those who say people should ask or check the city website, after all these years of Peenaquim being essentially a free-for-all, nobody reasonably should be expected to. If off-leash dogs aren’t allowed in certain areas, there should be signage.
One issue of potential conflict that seems to be in the process of being addressed is parking. With a separate parking lot, neither disc golfers nor dog walkers should be inconvenienced, the latter at least any more than they are now when the parking lot, I’m told, can be packed solid.
The biggest issue will be the boundary between golf course and off-leash area and how that boundary is going to be marked.
Anybody who visits Nicholas Sheran Park knows disc golf is getting immensely popular in the city. At certain times of day in warmer months, the parking lot on McMaster Blvd is packed with a range of users, disc golfers among them.
The key point is “certain times” because often the parking lot and park are barren of users, whether they be disc golfers, runners, fishermen or parents with kids and strollers. Will the ebb and flow at Peenaquim Park be any different? Is any park any different?
Being a betting man, I would say ‘no’ although being a Leaf fan, I’d be tempted to hedge my bets because we know how many Stanley Cup parades have been staged in Toronto in recent decades.
The problem, and there definitely is one, has to do with communication, not potential conflicts among users. Conflict can exist in any park when various users are out in force. And it’s inevitable in a city of 100,000 where many people enjoy the use of our wonderful and expansive park systems.
The animosity between woofers and golfers may have easily been prevented if perhaps the City had offered a consultation with all users to find out potential problems. A dialogue would have been fantastic public relations, even after approving a disc golf course because input from other users could have been valuable for the planning process.
It’s a courtesy that other users deserved. Should not the City, out of courtesy, be communicating and consulting with taxpayers in advance about any planned uses for city parks?
Would the City just install a sign and put a notice on a website if it was going to create a dog park at places where that might conflict with other users, such as Indian Battle Park or even Henderson Lake, which has a nice long grassy shaded area that I’m sure pups and their companions would love to use as a so-called ‘bark park’? It’s a valid question and one that has been expressed to me by others.
Dog walkers have three legitimate spaces in Lethbridge to let their animals exercise and socialize off-leash. Well, four but the Riverstone bark park can be unpleasant due to some owners not cleaning up after their dogs or even noticing they’ve defecated as they sit at the tables near the park entrance.
Due to rattlesnakes, some avoid Popson completely during the summer months which puts more pressure on the other two off-leash areas.
Being near a busy road, the Scenic Drive park is not a great alternative for people whose dogs may tend to wander. And with no readily available source of water, it’s not great in summer months either.
Because of those issues, Peenaquim in summer is perhaps the best choice for city dog walkers.
With consultation, the critics of disc golf at Peenaquim might be supporters and people should if there is a way of accommodating all users at any park.
All three dog parks, by the way, are also popular with hikers, runners and nature enthusiasts.
And more than one person has endured a runner or hiker insisting a dog be put on-leash because of a fear of dogs while that person traverses one of the few areas where dogs are legally allowed off-leash.
Parks – with the exception of wilderness areas and the Elizabeth Hall Wetlands – are public spaces for everyone, including dog owners, which too many people seem to forget.
If potential conflicts can be mitigated, then nobody can justifiably complain about having another activity at any city park, regardless of what kind of activity – legal activity, that is. And communication would have prevented, or at least reduced, potential conflict.
So how is this going to play out, so to speak? In my honest opinion, it’ll probably be forgotten as quickly as last year’s Stanley Cup final. But time will tell.
In the meantime, Ben wants another play date. I’m guessing Dexter not so much.
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