Erosion of Winnipeg’s Off-Leash Recreational Green Space
Posted by Windog / in Features, INFORMATION /
WINDOG has called on City Council to address the alarming loss of Winnipeg’s off-leash recreational green space by ensuring adequate funding is available in the 2016 Capital Budget for the city’s first comprehensive off-leash area management plan.
Off-leash space continues to shrink rapidly under the watch of a recently elected “dog-friendly” Mayor and Council. Over the past few years the city has lost approximately 35% of its off-leash space.
Despite the City’s highly-publicized plan to open a new half-acre dog park in the downtown area and another one-acre park in Transcona, Winnipeg’s off-leash green space continues to shrink at a disturbing rate. In recent months 40 acres of off-leash space has been lost at Brenda Leipsic and 12 more at the dog park known as Sturgeon and Silver. Dog owners have done the math – 1.5 acres gained, 52 lost. Some of the loss is temporary; some is permanent.
While the City administration is unable to provide exact figures, municipal maps indicate at least 80 acres of off-leash space were lost when Little Mountain and Maple Grove were reduced by more than half their original size and Transcona’s Buffer Zone and Stephen Juba dog parks were closed.
With the latest closures at Brenda Leipsic and Sturgeon and Silver, Winnipeg’s off-leash green space has shrunk from approximately 380 acres to less than 250. Moreover, the distribution across the city is uneven; over half of the City’s off-leash space is at Kilcona Park.
The 12 acre off-leash dog park at the intersection of Sturgeon Road and Silver Avenue in northwest Winnipeg was closed last August for the construction of a traffic roundabout to improve traffic flow.
Sturgeon and Silver intersection before roundabout
Plan for roundabout construction
Sturgeon and Silver Dog Park lies on the western fringe of Murray Industrial Park. The off-leash area is located on land that the City has designated as a street right of way. That means this parcel – like Charleswood, is not reserved for parkland or green space, but rather for road construction.
In recent years there has been much activity near Sturgeon and Silver, including construction of a four-lane divided expressway to serve Winnipeg’s growing inland port. In 2013, CentrePort Canada Way opened, with an extension to Sturgeon. Silver Avenue will also be extended. The current closure of the dog park is temporary, but at some point, the closure will be permanent.
Nancy Ellen Noren organized a petition, protesting the construction of the roundabout and lack of public consultation.
On January 21, the City closed Brenda Leipsic Dog Park for construction of the Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor through the Parker Wetlands. Leading up to the closure, WINDOG joined the Brenda Leipsic Dog Parkers, the Winnipeg Humane Society, the Parker Wetlands Conservation Group, dog owners and area residents, in appealing the Minister of Conservation and Water Stewardship’s decision to issue environmental licenses to the City. The province hasn’t ruled on the appeal but Manitoba Hydro has begun work to relocate its transmission lines in preparation for corridor construction.
The City will re-open a much smaller version of Brenda Leipsic Dog Park in the fall of 2019. At 20 acres, the new off-leash area will be half the size of the original dog park.
Critics say that, in downsizing Brenda Leipsic, the City has not taken into consideration the significant increase in the number of people and dogs that will be using the park when a new residential development opens across the street from the off-leash area. Their concern is that the replacement dog park is not large enough to accommodate the increase in use.
The closure of Brenda Leipsic leaves River Heights-Fort Garry ward without any off-leash space. A temporary dog park, which Gem Equities architect Lawrence Bird describes as “unofficial”, has been established on private land owned by real estate developer, Andrew Marquess.
Dog owners have access to the area until Gem Equity begins construction of approximately 1700 low, medium and high density residential units. Gem Equities held an open house last night to unveil conceptual plans for development of the Oak Grove subdivision.
Gem Equities open house board. Yellow – Oak Grove subdivision which serves as a temporary, unofficial off-leash area. Green – City of Winnipeg 2019 replacement dog park.
Great cities have great parks for all their citizens. Mayor Bowman and those City Councillors who have identified themselves as “dog friendly” need to fulfil their commitment to provide high quality off-leash recreational green space if they expect the support of Winnipeg dog owners.
Council’s first step is to ensure that adequate funding is available in the 2016 Capital Budget for the city’s first comprehensive off-leash area management plan. Its second obligation is to stop the practice of establishing temporary off-leash areas like Sturgeon and Silver and Brenda Leipsic on road allowances and Hydro easements and create permanent dog parks located on designated parkland.