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The Town has now held a meeting with Oxford Court residents to solicit feedback on the proposed "off-the-leash" dog park adjacent to their property (see map below).  There are 40 condo units in Oxford Court with presumably approx. 80 residents and about 40 of those were at the meeting.  Upfront answering questions were Councillor Larry Sherwin, Director of Public Works Bill Watson and Manager of Engineering Services Teresa Behan.  In the audience were councillors Miriam Mutton and Donna Todd.  Bill Watson made it clear that the meeting was called so the residents could tell him what their concerns were and the short version of that was that they were NOT HAPPY!  Although Bill did provide some clarifications, he re-iterated that  his job was to listen and report to council and they would be the final decision makers.

Dog ParkAlso in the audience were Rick Riley from the Oxford Court Property manager, Genedco and representatives of YMCA who own the property being considered.

The concerns of the residents were presented with passion and could be summarized as:

  • Why does the off-leash dog Park have to move from its current location in James Cockburn Park? [Because GRCA has said so - quoting Provincial by-laws - and the town has no jurisdiction on that].
  • Why does it have to be near residents with the potential for noise, smell and harassment by dogs? [Because there are few other  town owned (or available) lots big enough and this one was offered by YMCA and is not useable for development since it is on a "100-year" flood plain]
  • Why should taxpayers have to pay for this? [For the same reason everyone pays for recreational facilities that not everyone uses].
  • It's bad for the environment [No endangered species have been identified and this area is little different to the James Cockburn Park in this regard].
  • Isn't there another location that could be used? [A total of 22 locations will be considered - one at a time.  This is the first to be considered.]
  • Some people abuse these parks - they have aggressive dogs or have 5 or 6 at a time. [About 10% are "bad" dog owners - all dog parks rely on self-policing.]
  • The proposed Area is not big enough and in fact is not as big as has been stated. [Bill Watson disputed the numbers and said other dog parks are a similar size - but if a buffer is included the size would be even smaller and it will be significantly less than at James Cockburn park so this is a valid concern.]

Although Bill Watson said he was neutral and just collecting concerns and that the idea was not a "done deal", he did provide a number of items in defense and clarification of the idea:

  • The land is a "100-year" flood plain, it's available and costs would be only for fencing and some grooming of the area.  No estimates are yet available.   If not used for a dog park it could be used for other things which might be worse.
  • There was no conspiracy or secret deal to make the town or the YMCA or anyone else rich
  • Bill's job is to collect concerns and report to council on whether the concerns can be mitigated.
  • He conceded the need for a buffer but asked - what kind of buffer? Residents should identify that to him.
  • The area would certainly be fenced
  • In the end a decision will be made based on input from the people wanting a dog-park, from the concerns of the residents of Oxford Court and the overall view of the town as determined by the council.
  • Any solution will likely involve trade-offs
  • The number of people for and against, by itself, will not be a deciding factor.  As Bill said "There are 40 people here against the idea, if there are 41 other people who want a dog park, do they 'win'?"

At the end of the meeting, residents were given comment sheets to complete and were assured that their concerns would be "listened to".  The deadline for receipt of the comment sheets was Friday November 15.

It seems that we have a classic case of NIMBY except that there are a couple of valid points:

  1. The area proposed is too small - especially as the town grows. By scaling from the map above, I get about 1.6 acres!  In a small area, it's harder to keep small yappy dogs from annoying larger dogs and the joy of being with your dog is lost.  With a buffer zone alongside Oxford Court, the area gets almost miniscule.  Areas flagged for expansion have their own problems.
  2. Why can't the GRCA be convinced to modify the rules and allow the town to fence off an area for this purpose?  We do have two members of Council on the GRCA board and we are paying the GRCA for the James Cockburn area and have an agreement on multi-use.  This is one of the uses we want!

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