WINNIPEG Network of Dog Owner Groups (WINDOG) Submission
Standing Policy Committee on Protection, Community Service and Parks
Regarding Funding – Winnipeg Off-leash Area Master Plan (OLAMP)
March 8, 2019
The Winnipeg Network of Dog Owner Groups (WINDOG) is here today to ask that Standing Policy Committee on Protection, Community Service and Parks recommend to the Executive Policy Committee that the City of Winnipeg’s 2019 capital budget be amended to include funding that Parks and Open Space has identified is necessary to implement the new Off-Leash Area Master Plan.
WINDOG is a registered not-for-profit organization. Our mandate is to advocate for quality off-leash space, and sound off-leash legislation, policies, and practices.
Our members are official park stewardship organizations like Kilcona Park Dog Club and Maple Grove Park Dog Owners Association.
Under the City’s Adopt-A-Park Program WINDOG members volunteer thousands of hours of labour annually to help the City maintain Winnipeg dog parks. We also fundraise for off-leash area improvements.
Besides its members, WINDOG has several partners. These are groups of dog lovers that are waiting for the City to designate off-leash areas in Point Douglas, the North End and at St. Vital’s King George V Park.
Some of these groups have been asking the City for a neighbourhood dog park for years. They have appealed to their ward councillors and made presentations to community committees, EPC, and city council.
They have heard the same message at every level – “Be patient. Wait until the off-leash area master plan is complete. There will be a process in place for creating new dog parks. And there will be funding to create and maintain them.”
Protection, Community Services and Parks served as the steering committee for the master plan, shepherding it through the planning process and public consultations – listening to public servants, consultants, WINDOG, dog park stewardship groups, groups waiting for their own dog parks, and individual dog owners.
The plan, which Council approved last July, clearly identifies that Winnipeggers are demanding more well-designed dog parks with quality amenities. The Plan’s policies and standards provide direction on meeting that demand in a sustainable manner.
The Plan states,
“The City will establish a budget line to support capital investment in the establishment and enhancement of OLAs…and will establish additional operating budget resources for the management of OLAs…”
The public service has identified that City needs an additional $15,000 in operating budget resources for existing off-leash areas to meet new OLAMP service level standards.
For new off-leash areas, an additional operating budget of $9,905 per hectare is required so the City can comply with service level maintenance standards.
The public service also identified that the City needs to establish a $300,000 capital budget line item in each of the next 6 years to support the establishment and enhancement of dog parks. It was recommended that capital funding to implement the plan be referred to the 2019 budget process.
In view of the direction given, WINDOG and its members are very disappointed to learn that there is absolutely no funding in the 2019 budget for dog parks.
After spending $100,000 to develop a framework for creating and managing regional, community and neighbourhood dog parks, the City has not allocated a penny to implementing its master plan.
Dog park stewardship groups, groups waiting for their own neighbourhood dog parks, and individual dog owners who participated in the master plan public engagement process – all those people who attended consultation meetings, committee and council meetings, and pop-up events, reviewed drafts and completed online surveys will be more than disappointed when the information is made public.
Perhaps the budget working group’s failure to fund implementation of the master should not have come as a big surprise.
The City has invested nothing in its dog parks since the first ones were created in 1998. In terms of providing quality off-leash dog parks, Winnipeg ranks near the bottom of major Canadian cities.
And when we compare ourselves against other Manitoba communities, the numbers are even worse.
Winnipeg has set aside 12 off-leash areas totalling about 200 acres. Much of this land is undesirable real estate that’s unsuitable for dog parks – capped landfills, street right of ways and industrial parks.
Entire wards such as Ft. Rouge-East Fort Garry, Point Douglas, and most neighbourhoods in south-west Winnipeg do not have an off-leash dog park.
After the draft master plan was released last May, WINDOG and the public service had several discussions about implementation. Parks and Open Space is committed to establishing new dog parks and upgrading existing ones. But without secure capital funding that simply won’t happen.
As noted in the 2018 Asset Management Plan, the City has acquired significant greenspace over the years, but Parks’ budget has remained virtually unchanged.
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 park amenities and many services have been reduced or discontinued.
In implementing the master plan, Parks’ priority is to direct capital funding to improving safety and upgrading amenities in existing dog parks before establishing new ones.
There’s strong public demand to make all dog parks safer and more secure by fencing the boundaries. The cost of doing this is relatively low. Last summer Maple Grove Park Dog Owners Association fenced the city’s second largest dog park for $16,000.
At the same time, Kilcona Park Dog Club solicited quotes for fencing the city’s largest dog park. The work can be done for less than $50,000.
However, fencing and upgrading furnishings in existing dog parks to comply with new standards may be relatively minor expenditures. The plan indicates that from time to time, it may be necessary to purchase land. This might happen, for example, in underserved areas, with high dog license densities, no public greenspace, and available land that is suitable for development as a dog park.
The master plan identifies parts of the city where the need for off-leash areas is the greatest – notably the North End and Point Douglas – which have the highest dog license density. There are no off-leash areas in either of these neighbourhoods or in many others.
Except for Bonnycastle, Winnipeg dog parks continue to be seriously underfunded. In the face of declining resources, the City relies increasingly on OLA stewardship groups to raise money for capital improvements and supply volunteer labour to help with park maintenance.
For example, each year Kilcona Park Dog Club volunteers donate about 3000 hours of volunteer service on stewardship activities like holding clean-ups, chipping hiking trails and banding trees to protect them from beaver damage.
Over the past five years the Kilcona club has donated $60,000 worth of dog waste bag dispensers, waste bags, in-ground garbage bins, picnic tables and park benches. This year the club will spend an additional $70,000 to $80,000 on a three-tiered drinking fountain/bottle filling station, a dog rinse station, and supporting infrastructure. Dog parks that do not have stewardship groups like Kilcona’s that fundraise have had no improvements.
As it stands, Parks and Open Spaces 2019 capital budget is $8,653,000. Funds are allocated to community and neighbourhood parks, parks buildings, athletic fields, the Parks and Recreation Enhancement Program, reforestation, and the Urban Forest Enhancement Program, to which understandably 51% of the budget is directed.
The next largest budget line is for the Parks and Recreation Enhancement Program at 38%. The funds are used for playground restoration, play equipment and safety surface replacements, amenities and pathway improvements.
$300,000 of the total PREP budget of $3,300,000 is earmarked for city-wide general playground and amenity safety. The remaining $3,000,000 is divided equally between each of the fifteen electoral wards.
WINDOG know that because the program is ward-based, it is close to councillors’ hearts. But we ask that this committee recommend to EPC that $300,000 of that $3,000,000 be reallocated to implementation of the off-leash dog park master plan. In terms of the financial impact, it would change the current PREP allocation by $20,000 per ward – reducing it from $200,000 $180,000.
Funding plan implementation would send a strong message to the general public, and to dog owners and advocacy groups specifically, that their participation in the process of creating an off-leash area master plan was not just a hollow exercise, that the master plan will not be just another document gathering dust.
I urge the committee to do the right thing; recommend a budget line for implementing the master plan, a budget line to support capital investment in the establishment and enhancement of Winnipeg’s off-leash dog parks.
President – WINDOG Inc.