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Bowman Considers Converting Wading Pools to Permanent Dog Pools
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Posted: 09/5/2018 4:00 AM
Wading pool for dogs experiment has big proponent in Mayor Brian Bowman
By: Doug Speirs
If you love dogs, you are my friend. I suppose that Hallmark card-style sentiment is about as close as I come to having a philosophy of life.
KAYLEIGH SPEIRS PHOTO
Doug Speirs (left) holds Juno along with Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman and his dog, Indiana.
It also explains why I like hanging out from time to time with Winnipeg’s dog-loving mayor, Brian Bowman.
Last summer, for instance, I joined the mayor and an adorable two-year-old German shepherd cross named Dorothy for a sunny walk around city hall to promote Winnipeg’s Animal Services Agency’s dog-adoption program.
It was the launch of an unofficial new program wherein the mayor invited local personalities and community leaders to join him and a canine companion for casual strolls downtown to help adoptable dogs find “forever homes.”
On Saturday, in the middle of the holiday weekend, my newest dog, Juno, and I joined the mayor and his 12-year-old miniature Labradoodle, Indiana, for a refreshing late-summer dip in the Bruce Park wading pool in St. James.
This is the second straight year the city has gone to the dogs in the sense it has transformed two of its wading pools into canine-only facilities on the final day before the pools are closed for the season.
The way it worked was licensed dogs under 30 pounds were allowed to splash around at Bruce Park from 10 a.m. to noon, while dogs over 30 pounds were invited from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. It was the same at Norwood wading pool, except larger dogs had the first time slot.
I was pretty pumped up about dog day at the pool because I have never seen any of my hounds swim, other than a brief dip in an inflatable kiddie pool in our backyard.
For the record, I had also been promising for months to give Brian a copy of Finding Gobi, a heart-tugging book about an ultra-marathon runner named Dion Leonard, whose life is changed forever when he crosses paths with a stray dog while competing in a 250-kilometre race through the Gobi Desert in China.
If you love dogs, or even enjoy hearing about crazy people who run ridiculously long distances, you have to read this book.
But that’s not the point. The point is: it is difficult, using mere words, to describe how funny it is to watch a couple of dozen dogs having the time of their lives racing around after tennis balls in a city wading pool. But I will try: It is very, very funny!
And there is some extremely exciting news for Winnipeg dog owners who like the idea of letting their best friends beat the heat by cooling off in a wading pool normally reserved for pint-sized humans.
As his family kept a wary eye on Indiana, and my daughter, Kayleigh, took photos of a waterlogged Juno, the mayor explained that he is hoping to expand the doggie days at the pool project next summer.
“I think it’s great!” the mayor beamed as our dogs joined at least a dozen other soggy canines racing around the pool and attempting to retrieve complimentary tennis balls. “What I love about this is the dogs are happy and, even more importantly, the owners are happy. I’m thrilled. We started this last year and it’s been a huge hit. The tails have been up the whole time.”
Which means dogs may enjoy more days at city wading pools next year.
“What I’m going to be doing this week is touching base with our pools and animal services folks to see what makes sense in terms of looking at maybe opening some of these wading pools once a week, or possibly once a month, during the summer months or even the idea of converting one or a number of these wading pools to permanent dog pools,” the mayor told me.
“We’d have to look at the current usage of children in these wading pools and where it would make sense based on the feedback. We’d have to do some due diligence about what’s possible and do some consultations.
“I think what’s more likely is just once a week, say Sundays would be the day, that a number of them would be (dog pools) just for that day. At this pool… the water is drained at the end of the day anyways.”
The idea of opening pools to canine residents stemmed from a conversation Bowman had with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi a couple of years ago.
“We were talking about amenities for dogs and how popular what they were doing in Calgary was. So we tried it out last year just to see how it would go, and it was an overwhelming success. I’m really pleased to see how many people are with us here today.”
He noted Winnipeggers have been howling with excitement over canine amenities such as the city’s new downtown dog park that opened in Bonnycastle Park last year.
“What we’ve seen with the downtown dog park is a sense of community that happens when dogs bring their owners to each other,” he said. “What we’re seeing here (at the wading pool) today is folks meeting each other, talking about their dogs. It’s all about community; it’s about bringing people together. That’s what we’ve seen with the downtown dog park.”
Of course, when you bring your dog for a swim you need to pay strict attention to the safety rules. Because you don’t want to step in a poodle.
WINDOG Endorses New Off-Leash Dog Park Master Plan
Last week Winnipeg City Council unanimously approved the long-awaited master plan for off-leash dog parks.
Dog walkers at Kilcona Park’s off-leash area
Winnipeg Network of Dog Owner Groups (WINDOG) President, Donna Henry appeared before Council to endorse the plan and to ask for dedicated funding to upgrade existing dog parks and to create new ones.
Knowing that the City has historically taken funds collected for one purpose and used them for another, the off-leash area advocacy coalition is concerned that unless funding for off-leash dog parks is dedicated, money will be redirected when it’s expedient to do so.
According to Dave Domke, Manager of Winnipeg’s Parks and Open Space Division, which oversees the city’s off-leash areas, the City needs to earmark $300,000 for dog parks in each of the next 6 years. He agrees, however, that until the City develops an action plan for each of its off-leash areas, no one really knows what it’s going to cost to upgrade existing dog parks, let alone create new ones.
Domke says that right now the highest funding priority is to improve safety and enhance amenities in existing dog parks. Earlier this month, he told the Executive Policy Committee that Parks’ goal is to secure off-leash areas as separate spaces, by, for example fencing them. Until that happens, dogs, runners, joggers and cyclists will continue to share off-leash spaces.
Football at Little Mountain Dog Park with predictable results
WINDOG has long argued for fencing dog parks and designating them as ‘single-use’ areas where only activities associate with off-leash dog are permitted. Together, these two measures will improve safety and reduce conflicts that arise when off-leash dogs and other park users share the same space.
Dogs doing what dogs love…chasing a fast moving object
WINDOG believes that the cost of fencing dog parks is minimal. Kilcona Park Dog Club recently solicited quotes for fencing its off-leash area, and according to Donna Henry, “Our Board was surprised. The work can be done for less than $40,000. Last month Maple Grove Park Dog Owners Association fenced its dog park for $16,000. Fencing the boundaries of these two dog parks would secure 70% of Winnipeg’s off-leash greenspace.”
If we look at the bigger picture, fencing and upgrading furnishings in existing dog parks may be relatively minor expenditures. The City’s plan does indicate that, from time to time, it may be necessary to purchase land for a new dog park. This might happen, for example, in a neighbourhood with a high dog population that has no off-leash area, no suitable public greenspace, but has privately-owned land that is suitable and available.
As the price of land continues to rise, and knowing that Bonnycastle – the smallest dog park in Winnipeg, and built on City-owned land – cost over half million dollars to develop, WINDOG’s view is that the proposed budget of $300,000 year will not go far.
Mayor Bowman fulfills his 2014 election promise to create a downtown off-leash area…
Bonnycastle, a new gated community…for dogs!
Except for Bonnycastle, where no expense was spared on artificial turf designed specifically for dog parks, ornamental fencing and double gates, trees and shrubs, lighting, benches and a drinking fountain, Winnipeg dog parks continue to be seriously underfunded. It is well-documented that Parks has not had an increase in its service delivery budget for fifteen years. This has led to a decline in the quality of amenities, and many services have had to be reduced or discontinued. And as resources have declined, the City has increasingly come to rely on off-leash area stewardship groups like those at Kilcona and Maple Grove to raise money for capital improvements and to supply volunteer labour to help with park maintenance.
Kilcona Park Dog Club and CITO Geocache volunteers spread wood chips on off-leash trails
Clearly, without adequate, dedicated capital funding, the City simply won’t have the capacity to create new off-leash dog parks to accommodate the growing dog population.
WINDOG and its partners have asked City Council to create a dedicated capital fund for off-leash areas, just as it has recently done for street renewal. However, Henry wants to make it clear that “WINDOG is not asking for a tax increase like the road renewal fund. A modest tenth of a percent of the current tax allocation would yield half million dollars a year. Over the next decade, that’s five million dollars that can be used to create new dog parks and upgrade existing ones to comply with OLAMP standards.”
WINDOG’s proposal to Council comes at a time when the City faces significant financial challenges. With an infrastructure deficit pegged at $6.9 billion over the next ten years, the new Council will have some difficult choices to make. Kudos to Councillor Janice Lukes, who’s already announced that, if re-elected, she intends to support a dedicated capital fund!
Janice Lukes – Winnipeg’s first ‘Super Dog-Friendly’ candidate
In the months leading up to the October 24 municipal election, WINDOG encourages dog owners to ask their own candidates where they stand on the question of dedicated capital funding for dog parks. WINDOG will be asking questions too. Once again, as part of its ‘I Own a Dog AND I Vote’ campaign, the coalition will survey candidates and post their responses on its website – along with “Super Dog-Friendly, Dog-Friendly, Neutral, Dog-Unfriendly, and Super Dog-Unfriendly” ratings.
Look for the “Super Dog Friendly” icon at windog.ca