Richmond dog park causes controversy

An off-leash dog park in Richmond is having a hard time finding a happy home.

Off-leash area in neighbourhood park a bone of contention

Dover Park dog owners want their off-leash area back. It was recently moved to McCallum Park. (Margaret Gallagher)

An off-leash dog park in Richmond can't seem to find a happy home.

The City of Richmond recently moved the controversial off-leash area from Dover Park to nearby McCallum Park. Now some McCallum residents want it gone, while Dover Park dog owners are asking Richmond to bring it back.

The trial dog park was installed in Dover Park last summer. Local dog owner Bonnie Morley was among the residents who lobbied the city for an enclosed off-leash area in the eight-acre park.

"Unfortunately when they dropped it off they put it in this big ugly circle. And they put it right in front of the only pet-free building in this whole area. So when they look out their windows, all they could see was this big ugly round unattractive fenced area."

Neighbours like Don Stutt say the new off-leash area in McCallum Park is noisy and unsightly. (Margaret Gallagher)

The city says it received numerous complaints about the off-leash area. Neighbours objected to the noise and traffic generated by the dog park, which prompted the city to move the enclosure to McCallum Park, less than one kilometre away.

The trial park has already created waves with residents like Don Stutt, who says it's unsightly and noisy.

"My property values are down, as soon as they put this down without consultation."

Stutt says many of his neighbours are unhappy, and plan to start a petition to have the park removed.

"As a friend of mine said they're so mad they could spit."

Bigger plan in place

The trial off-leash area is part of a plan the city council approved in June. The plan recommended the city establish two new off-leash dog parks, and the relocation of the Dover Park enclosure.

Richmond spokesperson Ted Townsend says the city is committed to creating the parks in order to meet a growing demand, but that it can be difficult addressing the multiple needs  

"Obviously we are trying to provide an opportunity for those people who do want off-leash areas to exercise their dogs. There's also a control element in this in that when we don't have off-leash areas established, we see a rise in complaints because dog owners may just choose to let their dogs run off-leash forever, and that causes problems. And we also have to be respectful the neighbourhood."

Townsend says the city takes these elements into consideration when choosing off-leash dog parks, which are established on a trial basis, generally about a year. During that the, the city invites input from the community, which it will take into consideration when making a final decision about the parks.

An new off-leash area in a McCallum Park is causing tension in the neighbourhood. (Margaret Gallagher)

In the meantime, Dover park dog owners are lobbying the city to bring their dog park back for another try — this time in what they feel will be a more suitable location. 

"None of knew each other before the dog park," says Morley, who recently appeared before council to advocate for a second trial. 

"But you come everyday and you get excited to come're sharing thoughts and you're getting to know people. And if you're new to the neighbourhood and have no friends, suddenly you have friends. So it's a sense of community."

So far, Richmond plans to proceed with the recommendations adopted in June, but continues to welcome input from the community.


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