City Moves Forward with Off-leash Area Master Plan
As dog lovers get ready to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the creation of Winnipeg’s first off-leash dog parks in 2018, they are also celebrating the fact that, after all these years, the City will finally have a framework for managing its off-leash area recreational greenspace. The long-awaited off-leash area master plan (OLAMP) will be presented to City Council this fall.
The plan, first proposed by Parks and Open Space five years ago, has been a long time coming. Yesterday WINDOG’s President, Donna Henry, questioned a committee of City Council about the status of the project. Parks and Open Space Manager, Dave Domke informed the Standing Policy Committee on Protection, Community Services and Parks that a consulting proposal has been received and work on the plan is expected to begin in February.
Winnipeg’s dog community had great expectations that a meaningful management plan would be produced in a timely way. But over the years there have been a number of set-backs that have delayed the project. In 2012 the City issued a contract for development of what many in the dog park community have referred to as “dog park plan lite”, a simplified version consisting only of non-binding guidelines.
The guidelines were released to the public in 2014; however they were never officially adopted by the City. Council’s Executive Policy Committee (EPC) agreed with WINDOG that the guidelines were seriously flawed and declined to approve them. Instead, EPC identified a need for a full-fledged comprehensive plan that would address the concerns WINDOG had raised about the original guidelines. Last March City Council approved $100,000 for the plan.
The new plan will include a vision, goals, and objectives for Winnipeg’s off leash dog parks and will identify options for funding, and standards for servicing them.
Standing Policy Committee on Protection, Community Services and Parks Councillors Mike Pagyakhan (Chair), Russ Wyatt, John Orlikow, and Ross Eadie will oversee development of the plan. Councillors have noted that dog parks have been a sensitive issue and the public needs to be consulted, a concern shared by WINDOG.
People are passionate about dogs both ways. Dog lovers love them, others don’t love them so much; the challenge is to make sure both sides are heard through a public consultation process and their concerns are taken into consideration.
Addressing WINDOG’s concern that the public had no opportunity to provide input into the 2014 guidelines, this year will see a broad range of consultation activities including meetings with stakeholders (including all off-leash dog park stewardship groups and the Winnipeg Humane Society), open houses, a web survey to solicit views on dog parks, and newsletters.
Why is an Off-Leash Dog Park Master Plan Important?
In the absence of a city-wide framework for off-leash area management, there is no consistency in how the city’s dog parks are being managed.
The City has ruled that there will be no expansion to Little Mountain Dog Park, and no new dog parks in Point Douglas, Mynarski, or Old Kildonan, wards where none exist, until the master plan is in place.
During the winter, the City has asked Little Mountain Park Dog Club volunteers to empty dog waste litter baskets – a violation of health and safety legislation – or do without them. In contrast, the high-quality, high capacity underground waste bins at Kilcona and Maple Grove are emptied by City employees.
Sturgeon and Silver Dog Park has been “temporarily” closed for the past year and a half.
Meanwhile, the City continues to fund dog park projects in other parts of the city: planning and public consultations on re-configuring Charleswood and Brenda Leipsic dog parks, and installing fencing around King’s Park off-leash area. In the midst of the moratorium, Council has selectively approved the creation of two new dog parks:
Bonnycastle Dog Park (downtown) opens in 2017.
Devonshire Dog Park (Transcona) opens in 2017.