May 28th, 2024

Council exploring adding more dog parks

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on November 18, 2021.

Herald photo by Al Beeber - Dogs frolic Wednesday at Peenaquim dog park.


A city of 100,000 has four off-leash dog parks and one city councillor wants to know if it’s possible to create more.
A Ryan Parker motion was approved by all members of city council Monday except deputy mayor Belinda Crowson, who made it clear she’s not against dogs or dog parks. The motion calls for the City Manager to bring back to council options for adding more off-leash parks here.
Several reasons were given for the motion including the fact off-leash parks are a huge success here and the current locations are seeing high usage and not everyone has easy access to the current locations.
Councillor John Middleton-Hope asked Parker if there’s been a demonstrable need from the public, indicating there are areas within the city not serviced by off-leash parks.
Parker responded by saying “it’s a subjective answer . . . I know that in the growing city of our community of over 100,000 people we only have four parks.”
Those parks are Peenaquim, Popson, Riverstone and Scenic Drive and in many cases people have to drive to them, said Parker, adding not all dog owners have vehicles so there can be accessibility issues.
“So I thought it would probably be a good idea to probably look at our existing infrastructure and green spaces and maybe put miniature smaller-scale parks in these areas at low cost.”
He added “I’m really excited about this resolution because I think it’s something we can do quickly. As most people know we have four well-used dog parks in our community and I don’t know exactly how many dogs reside in this community . . . I’m guessing thousands. As most people know, if you have a dog and you visit our off-leash parks, it’s not only an opportunity for our furry friends to get out, but it’s also an opportunity for the community to be a community.
“If you drive around and you look at all the people who are visiting within these parks of all age levels – students, seniors, middle-aged. It’s an amazing place and it’s quite a low-cost place because there isn’t a lot of maintenance besides mowing – hopefully most people are picking up after their animals. But when you look across southern Alberta, Calgary, Edmonton, you see these smaller-scale type dog parks where you don’t need four acres. You can do it within a half acre, you can do it almost in an area the size of this council chambers,” Parker said adding that the installation of chain link fence, disposal bin for dog waste and perhaps a picnic table are all that’s needed.
Parker said when he first brought this idea to a lot of people in the community, an idea came up of using space at a place like Nicholas Sheran Park for an off-leash area.
“If you can use maybe one per cent of that land for a designated area where people who don’t always have an opportunity to drive to an off leash park, they can walk, they can meet their neighbours, they can meet their friends, they can meet new friends. So I think it’s a good idea of looking forward in the future and capitalizing on our existing infrastructure,” Parker added.
He suggested the possibility of putting in solar-powered lights so these areas could be used after dark.
Jeff Carlson agreed with the proposal, saying he heard a lot of feedback when the Riverstone park was created a couple of years ago.
“You have my full support for this. We need to explore the options,” Carlson said, adding people drive across the city to use the park at Riverstone at the south end of University Drive.
“When we had some irrigation issues and it was closed for awhile, I got more calls on that and when is it going to reopen.” He said the city should look into more parks like Riverstone.
John Middleton-Hope also expressed support, saying that the hiccups associated with Riverstone and template used for its development could be used in the future.
“I also support this as well,” he said, thanking Parker for bringing the motion forward.
“I would hope we use that experience and that template that we used for Riverstone, in particular in terms of not only the challenges we faced but also the costs of that particular location. If we could use those going forward, I think that would be certainly something I could certainly support.”
Crowson said “I cannot support this at this time and I know it’s going to come across as I don’t like dogs or dog parks which is absolutely not true. I just think we’re getting a little more operational with this than we need to be. We have another parks general manager who is just getting into that department and I’m sure will have some ideas.”
Crowson said council has asked the parks department to look at parks overall, adding “I think this is part of that. And I have no doubt that this will be seen as a need and probably will be suggested by our parks department but I think here we are just getting a little too far into the weeds.
“Let them look at their department, let them bring their ideas back and I have the expectation we will be seeing more of these but I don’t want to be this directional into operational matters.”
Mayor Blaine Hyggen told council he supports the idea.
While on the campaign trail, the mayor said he heard from residents about the city not having a sufficient number of off-leash parks.
“It’s great to be able to take our dogs down and to visit other dogs down there. But it’s amazing how much opportunity the residents have to connect up at these parks. And it’s quite interesting while your dogs are out playing, the different conversations you can have with other residents. So just that community getting together and chatting is great.”

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