Q1: Please describe what you have done in the past to serve the interest of Winnipeg dogs and dog owners - either in your own ward or in the city.
As a person who attends a dog park in the city every day, I have felt firsthand the frustration around dog parks in Winnipeg and the neglect the civic government has shown toward dog owners. I live in St Boniface right by the hospital and college and every day my girlfriend and I load our three dogs into our car and drive over 20 minutes to Maple Grove or even further to Kilcona or Little Mountain. I was vocal to anyone that would hear me complain about the situation but finally found that the best way to make myself and the concerns of other dog owners heard was to run for City Council. Regardless of the outcome, I knew I would bring awareness to this issue and strive to find a community based solution. This election is all about looking to the future and proper planning and dog parks need to be in that plan.Q2: Does your ward have an off-leash dog park? If not, do you know why not?
The St Boniface ward has what is defined as an off leash dog park. My first, and what will be my only experience at that park in the St Boniface Industrial Park was a nightmare. Heavy equipment and vehicles surrounded the park which lacks proper fencing to protect animals, children and adults alike. One of my dogs was nearly run over within minutes of arrival. Then I spent the remainder of my time trying to keep two of my dogs out of the toxic retention pond that has warning signs to do so in order to prevent illness. How this is classified as an off leash dog park is beyond comprehension. I am forced to drive the extra distance to other safer parks every day.Q3: If you are elected, will you increase the number of dog parks in your ward. If so how will you do that? If you have specific locations in mind, please identify them.
One of my priorities would be to increase the number of off leash dog parks not only for St Boniface but across the city. There are a number of great areas and ideas that would make doing so both cost efficient and quickly available to dog owners. Mr. Bowman’s proposal for a dog park in the Waterfront area is a great example of how a dog park outside the St Boniface ward would benefit its’ residents. The downtown dog park would be beneficial to the residents of St Boniface closest to downtown. In addition, Whittier Park has a large green space where a small area could be fenced off or simply designated as off leash. St Boniface expands into Island Lakes, Sage Creek, Southdale and Royalwood, all of which are grossly underserviced with regard to dog parks. There are many undeveloped areas along Fermor east of Lagimodiere and on Lagimodiere toward Sage Creek where an area could be fenced and designed off leash. Within Island Lakes there are a number of green spaces that would serve as a smaller area that local residents could use. By identifying green space areas that are currently underutilized by residents in the area, we could transform them into off leash parks without displacing other activities or youth sports.Q4: Winnipeg lags behind many major Canadian cities in terms of the number and size of its off-leash areas, and level of service and amenities it offers dog park users. Why do you think this has happened? If elected, what would you do to change this?
Winnipeg clearly has fallen behind in terms of keeping up in a number of areas as this election has showcased. Off leash dog parks clearly falls under that umbrella. This could be easily changed by declaring underutilized areas off leash without causing displacement of people or other activities. By clearly identifying the areas greatest in need and finding a solution in terms of open, usable, safe space, this can be rectified without much cost or effort.Q5: Do you support WINDOG’s model for Winnipeg off-leash dog parks? Please provide reasons. If so, what will you do to implement it? If not, why not?
I feel the WINDOG model for dog parks in Winnipeg is exactly what this city needs. While the numbers can be adjusted in order to meet demand, we must begin by identifying the areas of the city most in need of off leash parks and find suitable green space. This would take care of the smaller, neighbourhood parks. The midsize park in each ward may be adjusted in order to service areas more efficiently meaning one ward may house 2 or even 3 parks based on size of the ward and spread of the population. As for the larger parks, we currently have a few in place but they are managed improperly with land being designated to other uses. Such is the case at Maple Grove with the Disc Sports field, the changes to Kilcona Park and the pending elimination of the dog park on Grant Avenue. With this in mind, I would work toward relocating other sports and activities where possible or when not available, finding new areas for dog parks equivalent in land space that had been taken away. With urban sprawl so rampant in Winnipeg, we have many large areas that could be designated for off leash dog parks that wouldn’t affect new construction or traffic flow while benefiting dogs and their owners. With this in mind, I would push for a long term contract where any new land designated for off leash dog park use would be secured as such for a period of over 25 years. I believe every dog and their owner deserves convenient access to off leash parks so that they may be able to frequent them despite their busy schedules.Q6: What specifically should the City do to create off-leash recreational space in older, well-established neighbourhoods?
This is a great question as it pertains to the older part of the St Boniface ward. The key is to find space that is not being used effectively and transform that area into safe, off leash dog parks. In cases where this is not possible, areas should be fitted to share space successfully. There are a number of examples of how this is done in other areas of the world. In New Zealand, for example, smaller areas are shared playgrounds and off leash dog parks. This is done using a donut method with a fenced in playground in the middle with a dog park ring surrounding it. Another fence along the outside makes it so families can attend the park with children being supervised in the middle area on the play structure and the dogs are free to run in the ring surrounding that playground. Fencing around both areas provides security and safety for dogs and children. Areas like this would allow families in their entirety, dogs included, to enjoy an afternoon or evening at the park with both child and pet getting exercise and time to socialize. Progressive ideas such as this would allow for areas without vast green spaces to be fitted to include something for everyone.Q7: If you are elected, what specifically will you do to improve Winnipeg's existing off-leash areas? Please consider the park infrastructure, facilities, and type and level of service the city offers and give examples.
I feel there are a number of things that could be done to improve off leash areas. As a frequent visitor to Maple Grove, I can see a number of improvements recently done but there would be room for more. In ground garbage cans recently installed were a great feature however given the size of the park, more garbage cans would be beneficial. At the major dog parks as described on the WINDOG plan, I feel a lit area would be a major upgrade and see increased usage at parks. A number of times I have finished work in the winter only to get home when it is already dark. While my dogs have lights to make sure I can track them at night, a lit area would increase park safety for both dogs and their owners. Also, running water should be accessible at all major and mid-sized parks. Once again using Maple Grove as an example, good hearted and hardworking volunteers carry in large containers of water daily so that dogs have safe, clean drinking water available to them. As the day grows long and the summer sun is heating our pets, the water is devoured and in short supply by day’s end. The running water would also help on those muddy days all dog owners have encountered where your furry friend returns from their walk coated in mud only to have to jump into your car. An ideal large park would have a water park for hot summer days, particularly in the case where there may not be a lake or river for dogs to swim in. These improvements would make off leash dog parks in Winnipeg safer, cleaner and would have them visited by many more people.Q8: Winnipeg dog owners have been losing what little off-leash space they have, as it’s repurposed for other recreational users and for municipal profit through the sale and rental of off-leash space. If elected, what would you do to change this?
If elected, I would lobby City Council to realize that dogs and their owners are an important part of the fabric of Winnipeg and that off leash dog parks need to be protected and secure areas. As previously mentioned, I would treat off leash dog park land as leased land and secure long term commitments that the area cannot be repurposed for other usage. I would lobby council to earmark a portion of the dog licence fee to go directly to the improvement and maintenance of dog parks. The funds collected from this fee would be ONLY used to improve dog parks and the facilities within making the areas more valuable and providing them with the proper amenities needed to ensure the safety and security of dogs and their owners. By having more dog parks with more to offer in each park, attendance would only rise and the need to keep parks appropriated for off leash use only would ensure that we do not lose any more green space to other usages.