Dog owners worried about their beloved park in the northwest corner of Winnipeg were pleasantly surprised to hear that a councillor from the south side of the city has thrown them a nice, juicy bone.
St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes, who chairs the Mayor's Environmental Advisory Committee, said he will hold public consultations to hear from Little Mountain Park users about what they'd like to see in the future for the park.
The park is an 'orphan,' owned by the city but surrounded by the Rural Municipality of Rosser. It doesn't belong to any city ward and so no councillor is responsible for it.
Mayes said he's heard the concerns about the park's future, and has found a way to help.
"Somebody has to go to bat for it," he said. "I fight for St. Vital Park, Jenny Gerbasi fights for Crescent [Drive Park], [Justin] Swandel fights for King's Park. Everybody has parks that they help fund and nobody's helping to fund this one because it's not in their ward. So we've got to get some suggestions from the public... on what we should be doing there."
Mayes said a public meeting could be held in late May, perhaps at a local school. He said between advertising it and holding it, it will probably cost a couple thousand dollars, paid for by the mayor's environmental advisory committee budget.
The pledge comes after concerns from park users that Little Mountain would disappear, whether by intention or by disuse, as industrial development in and around CentrePort grows.
Mayes said the park's usage is in fact, likely to increase, as new residential development in the northwest quadrant of the city is built.
"This isn't the time to be talking about selling it or turning it into a roadway or something," he said. "This is the time to be looking at [how] residential areas are moving out toward this park. CentrePort doesn't need it, doesn't want it. They say, 'Leave it as green space,' So ok, let's leave it as greenspace and talk about what would be useful for the park."
Developer says Little Mountain important
The developer of Waterford Green, a new residential community going up in the northwest corner of the city, said Little Mountain Park's continued survival is important for the thousands of new residents who will call that part of Winnipeg home.
Project Manager Dave Palubeski said even though green space is built right into the new community, larger parks still play an important role, even as the area grows as an industrial hub.
"Little Mountain Park and other parks, for example La Barriere Park in the RM of Richot, provide a different type of recreation experience," he said. "It's more of a regional kind of attraction as opposed to a neighbourhood attraction. I think Little Mountain ... will be important as CentrePort develops and as new residential development grows ... to serve that employment area. It'll become a focus for the families and people that live in the new neighbourhoods that are being created."
Palubeski said the residents of 600 homes are expected to move in this summer. It's the first phase of a 1,100 unit development.
Dog club bumps up membership drive
Dog owners, among the most vocal of the park's advocates, are thrilled.
Kristy Greening, one of the founders of the Little Mountain Park Dog Club, said having no councillor responsible for the park has made it a challenge to get anyone at city hall to pay attention to their concerns.
And while she was surprised to hear of Mayes' promise of public consulations on the park's future, Greening said Mayes has championed the cause since the beginning.
"Brian Mayes, who really has nothing to do with this end of the city, stepped up and agreed to help us," she said. "He's been a strong advocate and supporter since before we even founded the club. He's been fantastic to work with."
Greening said the club will bump up a planned membership drive to spread the word about the public consultations so as many people attend as possible.
She said talk of the park's future gives her hope that the city may be turning a corner in how it approaches dog owners and their green spaces, after the loss of space in Transcona for example and the impending extension of the William R. Clement Parkway which will wipe out a dog park in Charleswood.
"It absolutely does," she said. "It gives me confidence. This is exactly what we want to see. The city is growing. There's more dogs. You can't take your dogs to very many places at all, so we rely on our dogs parks throughout the city. And we need more, for sure."
Coun. Mayes said preserving green space is not just about dog owners.
"It's not just dog parks," he said. "One of the guys on the committee last night said, 'Hey, I played touch football there. I know this park. Yeah, this is great. We should be protecting this park.'"