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Who’s Dog Friendly and Who’s in the Dog House!
Winnipeg’s off-leash dog park advocacy coalition has taken another step forward with its campaign to elect a dog-friendly mayor and city council on October 22. WINDOG has released the results of its “I own a dog AND I vote!” outlining candidates’ vision for improving Winnipeg’s off-leash recreational green space and highlighting their track records.
Top dogs are mayoral candidate, Brian Bowman, North Kildonan Councillor Jeff Browaty, and St. Charles Councillor, Grant Nordman. Each was awarded “super dog-friendly” status – Bowman and Nordman for their innovative thinking and bold plans to create two new off-leash dog parks if elected, and Browaty for his commitment to identify locations in North Kildonan and Transcona that can be re-purposed as neighbourhood off-leash dog parks.
WINDOG also awarded seventeen Council candidates and mayoral candidate, David Sanders “dog-friendly” status.
At the other end of the spectrum, five of the seven mayoral candidates are in the dog house. Four candidates consider off-leash dog parks such a low priority that they didn’t bother responding to the survey.
The candidate with the worst track record is Gord Steeves who served as St. Vital’s City Councillor in 2006 when two-thirds of Maple Grove’s 34 hectare off-leash dog park was hived off to create new athletic fields. A month before the 2006 municipal election, Steeves attended Manitoba Organization of Disc Sports’ ground breaking ceremony at Maple Grove Park to announce that the City had awarded the group a $63,000 grant to develop ultimate Frisbee playing fields, paving the way for the province to kick in an additional $43,000.
Maple Grove dog owners were left with 12 hectares of unimproved off-leash space – much of it in the less desirable lowlands along the Red River that flood for several weeks each spring and are a sea of mud for even longer.
All “dog friendlies” have expressed their support for WINDOG’s proposed off-leash area model – a three-tiered system of neighbourhood, community and regional dog parks – each tier increasing in the size of the space, level of service and amenities. (See August 23 news story for details of the model.)
Check out the candidates’ responses to the survey by clicking on Election 2014 and follow the links.
By voting for dog friendly candidates on October 22. Winnipeg dog owners can do what Vancouver did in 2008. Fed up with too few off-leash parks, with poor services and amenities, dog owners launched their own “I own a dog AND i VOTE!” campaign. They elected a dog friendly Mayor and Council and replaced all the “dog-unfriendly” Parks Board Commissioners with individuals who supported off-leash dog parks. Today Vancouver a much pleasanter place for dogs and dog owners, with an abundance of high quality dog parks conveniently located throughout the city. Vancouver is considered a leader in off-leash area management.
At least 40% of Winnipeg households have a dog. That’s a an awful lot of votes.
Dog lovers can make a difference!
WINDOG Asks Candidates “How Dog-Friendly Are You?”
Which Winnipeg hopefuls will make a long-term commitment to creating safe, attractive, well-appointed, well-maintained off-leash areas for Winnipeg’s 110,000 dogs, if they are elected?
Today WINDOG asked each of the forty-four declared candidates if they would support WINDOG’s model – a three-tiered system with many small neighbourhood dog parks within easy walking distance of residents’ homes; larger community dog parks – at least one in each ward – within easy driving distance; and a large regional off-leash area no more than a twenty minute drive away, in each quadrant of the city.
Several Winnipeg wards have no off-leash dog parks, including Mynarski, Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry, Old Kildonan, Daniel McIntyre, Elmwood and Transcona.
Point Douglas, St. Vital, St. Norbert, River Heights-Fort Garry, St. Charles, St. Boniface, and Charleswood each have one, while St. James – Brooklands has two.
North Kildonan has Winnipeg’s only large regional Park – Kilcona – at just over 100 acres.
WINDOG will post candidates’ responses as they are received. Check back regularly and simply click on the ward map at http://windog.ca/map/ to find the dog-friendliest candidates in your ward.
WINDOG will be back in 2018, following up with successful candidates, checking the results of their action plans, and handing out report cards for each one.
WINDOG’s “I own a dog AND I VOTE” campaign to elect a dog-friendly Mayor and Council grew out of Winnipeg’s off-leash area stewardship groups’ concern that our city’s track record with respect to dog parks is abysmal.
Mazenod Dog Park Bench
Photo credit: Jan Leah – Mazenod Dog Park Club
Very limited off-leash space – less than 1% of the City’s green space – is rapidly being lost due to park closures and downsizings, and there is a lack of transparency with respect to administrative decisions that affect our parks. There are so few parks that many have become seriously overcrowded. There is a lack of basic services and amenities; roads and trails are substandard – often impassible – and there are serious health and safety issues, including the recent gopher poisoning at Little Mountain.
New York’s Central Park
WINDOG’s campaign is supported by the New York Council of Dog Owner Groups (NYCDog) and Vancouver’s “I own a dog AND I vote” off-leash area advocacy group. Both organizations ran similar successful campaigns – the former to legalize off-leash areas, the latter to elect a dog-friendly City Council and Parks Board in 2008. The result of those campaigns: great cities that have great neighbourhood, community and regional parks for all their citizens to enjoy, and are wonderful places for dogs and humans to relax, exercise and socialize.
Behind WINDOG’s “I own a dog AND I vote!” campaign – What are the issues?
Great cities provide great parks for everyone – including safe, well-appointed, well-maintained off-leash dog parks that are a pleasure for people and pets to visit. WINDOG wants Winnipeg to join the ranks of the world’s great cities by creating attractive, high quality off-leash dog parks where humans and the 110,000 dogs that live in our city can relax, exercise and socialize.
While off-leash dog parks vary in size and layout, they have one thing in common -they don’t just happen. They become a reality only because dog owners ask for them — and keep asking.
Dog parks exist thanks to determined the lobbying efforts of dog lovers and advocacy organizations like WINDOG that explain their benefits, address and overcome objections from government officials and neighborhood residents, and work diligently to elect dog-friendly City Councils.
WINDOG encourages Winnipeg dog owners and dog lovers to get involved in the 2014 municipal election. Promote the “I own a dog AND I vote” campaign. Help raise awareness of the issues by purchasing an “I own a dog AND I vote!” bumper sticker. Watch WINDOG’s website for information on each candidate’s track record and find out what, if anything, each candidate plans to do to create or improve off-leash areas in their own ward, and throughout the city.
Contact candidates and let them know what you want.Vote for candidates who will work actively to create high quality dog parks in our city.
WINDOG’S Model for Winnipeg Off-Leash Dog Parks
Winnipeg has roughly 10,000 acres of green space. WINDOG wants much more of it dedicated to off-leash use. WINDOG proposes a three-tiered system of neighbourhood, community and regional off-leash dog parks – increasing in size, levels of service and amenities.
• WINDOG proposes many small neighbourhood dog parks within easy walking distance of resident’s homes.
• WINDOG also proposes larger community dog parks – one in each ward; and a large regional off-leash area, the size of Kilcona, in each quadrant of the city.
WINDOG also proposes that dog parks be reserved for the exclusive use of dogs and dog owners, in the same way that Winnipeg’s skateboard parks, toboggan hills, soccer fields, and golf courses are reserved for those activities. With 10,000 acres of parkland, there’s plenty of green space where Winnipeggers can bike, jog, and picnic without sharing the space with off-leash dogs.
For safety, WINDOG proposes that the Winnipeg follow the lead of many North American cities in passing legislation that would restrict unsupervised children from entering an off-leash area.
Finally, the provision of off-leash recreational opportunities in established areas of Winnipeg must be a key consideration in the park planning process and in planning new residential developments.
What are the Issues?
1. A Serious Shortage of Off-Leash Space
• The first problem is there’s not enough off-leash recreational space. The City has only set aside 100 of Winnipeg’s 4000 hectares of parkland for dog parks – that’s less than 3% of the city’s green space.
• 50% of all the off-leash space is at Kilcona.
• The city’s largest dog parks – Kilcona and Maple Grove have reached their carrying capacity. These parks are overcrowded and showing evidence of environmental degradation.
2. Uneven Distribution of Off-Leash Areas
•The distribution of dog parks throughout the city is very uneven.
•Most neighborhoods have no designated dog parks within walking distance of resident’s homes. To fill this need, “unofficial” dog parks have sprung up in every part of the city – in city parks, school grounds, athletic fields, Hydro lines and other pockets of green space.
•In Wolseley, a neighbourhood where green space is at a premium, the residents association’s proposal the City consider shared-use options for Vimy Ridge, one of the city’s many “unofficial” dog parks, remains in limbo.
Vimy Ridge “Unofficial” Dog Park
Photo credit: Trevor Dineen CBC
3. Rapid Decline in Off-Leash Space
•Dog owners are losing what little off-leash space they have at an alarming rate. A dog park is only safe if sports organizations and Active Transportation groups don’t want the space – or if the City can’t make a profit by renting or selling the land.
Photo credit: Kilcona Park Dog Club Inc.
•In 2006 the City reduced Maple Grove’s off-leash area by 20 acres, leasing the land to the Manitoba Organization of Disc Sports to create ultimate disc (Frisbee) sports fields. The City provided MODS with a $63,000 grant to develop the playing fields. The Province provided an additional $42,000.
•In 2011 the City offered to fund a community centre’s proposal to install a $100,000 boat launch on the Assiniboine River that would have a reduced Bourkevale dog park by as much as 50%. The project was cancelled after Bourkevale dog owners protested and construction bids came in significantly over budget.
•In 2012 the City closed Transcona’s only off-leash area, paving it over to create a link in the city’s Active Transportation Corridor network.
•In 2012 Parks significantly reduced Little Mountain’ off-leash area to create two rental spaces suitable for large tents and bouncy toys.
•In 2013 Parks proposed reducing Kilcona’s off-leash area by as much as 50% to accommodate dragon boat and kayak racing, a zip-line, off-road bike trails, and volleyball courts.
•In 2014 Parks closed Steven Juba Dog Park. The closure leaves downtown Winnipeg without any off-leash space.
•The City will close Charleswood Dog Park to build an extension to the William Clement Freeway.
•Brenda Leipsic is threatened with closure for the development of a rapid transit route through the Parker Wetlands and a new 3000 unit high-density residential subdivision.
4. Lack of Transparency in Decision-Making
•There is a lack of transparency in the City administration’s internal decision-making process with respect to the closure and/or reduction of off-leash areas.
•There’s no requirement to replace dog parks when the City re-purposes them. (Transcona and Steven Juba)
5. Undesirable Locations
•Dog parks are located on some of Winnipeg’s most undesirable land.
•Westview and Kilcona sit on capped landfills.
•St. Boniface and Sturgeon/Silver are in industrial parks.
•Brenda Leipsic and the former Transcona dog parks are located under Hydro transmission lines adjacent to rail lines.
•Sturgeon/Siver and Charleswood sit on road allowances, lands designated for future transportation corridors.
•Maple Grove and King’s Park’s low-lying lands along the Red River are prone to seasonal flooding. Much of the off-leash area is underwater for weeks every spring.
Photo credit: Maple Grove Park Dog Owners Association Inc.
6. Low Level of Service
•Winnipeg dog parks are not well serviced.
•Trails and some roads are not constructed to standard and drainage is poor. They are often impassible.
North Pond Trail – Kilcona Dog Park – April, 2011
Photo credit: Kilcona Park Dog Club Inc.
•There are no facilities for rinsing off dogs before they leave the park.
Trail at Charleswood Dog Park trail – March 2013
Photo credit: Trinda Frovitch
•The level of garbage collection service varies widely from park to park.
•Parks recently installed high capacity, environmentally-friendly underground bins at Kilcona. The bins are emptied with heavy equipment operated by City employees. All other dog parks use standard metal litter baskets. Some are emptied by the City, some are emptied by volunteers.
Photo credit: Kilcona Park Dog Club Inc.
•In 2013 Parks removed all the garbage bins from Little Mountain Park, returning them only when dog owners agreed to empty them and haul the garbage to the park entrance.
Little Mountain Park Dog Club’s garbage truck
Photo credit: Little Mountain Park Dog Club Inc.
•At Brenda Leipsic Dog Park, volunteers empty garbage bins and haul the bags to the park entrance where they are supposed to be picked up by City crews.
•After several complaints to the City about overflowing garbage bins at Brenda Leipsic Park went unanswered, Winnipeg Humane Society began hauling the garbage away.
Overflowing garbage can Brenda Leipsic Dog Park Entrance – April 2014
Photo credit: John Bronevitch CBC
•In most dog parks there are not enough garbage bins and repeated requests for more have gone unanswered.
•In 2012 Parks committed to installing six underground bins at Kilcona, as recommended by the City’s own consultant. Only three bins were installed.
•There are no recycling bins in off-leash areas. Tons of recyclable beverage containers are mixed in with dog waste and go directly into Winnipeg landfills.
Photo credit: Little Mountain Park Dog Club Inc.
•Dog parks are not accessible to people with limited mobility.
8. Health and Safety Concerns
•Dog waste is a vector for many diseases and parasites. At Maple Grove and now at Little Mountain, Parks administrators insist that dog park volunteers empty and haul away off-leash area garbage bins. Without proper work clothing to protect volunteers against leakage, there have been unpleasant accidents that have left them covered from head to toe in liquid feces.
•There is a significant risk of volunteers being injured lifting heavy bins. In 2013 one volunteer was seriously injured trying to lift a heavy bin that was frozen into the ground.
•Exercising dogs need plenty of water and shade in warm weather.
•There is no potable water for people or dogs in off-leash areas.
•Most dog parks lack shade and shelter belts.
•There are no fences separating dog parks from train tracks and heavily trafficked roads.
• The City applies gopher poison and toxic herbicides in and adjacent to off-leash areas without notifying dog owners.
Westview Dog Park
Photo credit: David Lipnowski – Winnipeg Free Press
•Several vets have confirmed that dogs have become ill with gastrointestinal, urinary tract and skin diseases from exposure to water in Kilcona’s retention ponds; however Parks administrators continue to insist there are no problems with the water. The administration’s claim appears to be without merit. The City doesn’t don’t test for most hazardous substances, including the presence of carcinogenic leachate from Kilcona’s capped landfill.
9. Parks Administrators Have Not Worked Cooperatively with Dog Owners, Off-Leash Area Stewardship Groups and Other Stakeholders
•Frustrated stewardship groups cite many examples of a lack of cooperation. One of the most egregious is Parks’ rejection of Kilcona Park Dog Club’s current offer to install dog waste bag disposal units in the off-leash area at no cost to the City and to supply the City with free bags on an ongoing basis if park staff refill the dispensers when they empty the garbage cans adjacent to them. Studies have shown that when waste bag dispensers are installed in parks, waste pick up rates improve by as much as 95%.
The Parks departments response to KPDC’s proposal, “As per Maple Grove who do their own waste collection – and other off leash areas that may supply their own doggy bags, the City has no current resources to monitor and maintain the dispensers with bags. We can’t commit to keep these dispensers full.”
Photo credit: Pooper Trooper®
•Parks administrators failed to support the Riel Community Committee and the Assiniboine Community Committees’ recent requests for create new off-leash areas in established neighbourhood parks (Whittier and Voyageur Parks).
•Finally, there is an apparent lack of interest in meaningful consultation with Winnipeg dog owners and a lack of transparency in the City’s development of it new Off-leash Area (OLA) Guidelines.
Public consultation is based on the well-established public policy principle that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process.
On May 12, 2014 the Standing Policy Committee on Protection and Community Services voted to approve new guidelines for Winnipeg dog parks,
Delegates from WINDOG and the Winnipeg Humane Society spoke in opposition to the proposed guidelines, declaring they don’t go far enough to create and protect the city’s off-leash dog parks.
Both groups objected to the complete lack of consultation with the Humane Society and other key stakeholders. By way of contrast, Vancouver and Calgary consulted widely and openly. Calgary spent over two years in a dialogue with its citizens.
WINDOG finds the atmosphere of secrecy surrounding the development of Winnipeg’s off-leash area guidelines alarming…these are dog park guidelines, not classified national security documents.
Although the consultant met with the Boards of KPDC and MGPDOA, club members were not permitted to attend these meetings. Maple Grove, Little Mountain and Kilcona’s Boards made a series of requests to Parks administrators, asking for public consultations. The requests were denied.
WINDOG’s presentation to the Executive Policy Committee May 29, 2014
Photo Credit: Breakfast Television
On May 29, 2014 the City’s Executive Policy Committee agreed with WINDOG’s criticism of the proposed guidelines and declined to approve them. “This report did not do a good job in thoroughly consulting with a broader cross-section of dog owners and dog people across the city,” Coun. Jeff Browaty told the Winnipeg Free Press, adding Winnipeg doesn’t provide enough amenities for people who own dogs.
The Executive Policy sent the report back to the administration. A revised report is expected in July. WINDOG hopes the new off-leash area guidelines will be based on broad consultation with all dog park stakeholders.