Some Edmontonians are concerned after the city announced plans to re-develop two popular river valley dog parks.
Buena Vista and Laurier Parks are both popular with the city’s dog walkers because of their central location near the Valley Zoo, as well as their large off-leash areas.
However, on Wednesday, city council approved plans that would see several changes to the area, including paving a three-metre wide shared path through the off-leash area.
Other planned changes include increasing the size of the off-leash area, and fencing off a section to be used by trainers and blind dog owners. Washrooms and additional parking will also be added.
While paving the path would make the area more accessible for cyclists, it has some worried.
"All [paving] will do is make the commuter cyclists go faster,” said dog walk Marcia Stewart. “The ones who want to get downtown, go through the park – 30 seconds, poof – they're down. They don't care about the park, the dogs, the children, the old people."
Other area users simply want to see things stay the same.
"It's great for bikers, but I think to kinda keep it primitive like this is good for dogs," said Art Young.
Dog walker Maurice Rousseau agrees.
"The sense that I'm getting from everyone I'm talking to in the area [is that they] really like the way things are right now,” said Rousseau, who walks his dog through the area every day. “It's sort of like a little culture we've developed here – there's about 2,000 dogs a month that come down here so – paved paths are nice, but they don't have to be everywhere.”
"The dog park is special. I'd hate to lose the original concept of freedom of dogs running around."
City councillor Michael Oshry, who represents the ward, said the development won’t be a problem.
"Paving is going to increase the speed of some cyclists, for sure – but it is a multi-use park, and the fact is we are trying to make sure our parks get used by everybody – and we are trying to connect the cycling system through the whole river valley."
Council will officially vote on the matter next week. If the plans go forward, construction on Phase One of the park redevelopment is slated to start this summer.
In total, the work will cost $8 million.