Halifax is reviewing the off-leash dog park status of Africville Park.
Africville was razed by the city in the 1960s and landscaped over with Seaview Park. The park was declared a National Historic Site in 1996 and renamed Africville Park in 2011.
It’s still a popular waterfront spot for dog owners to let their pets run free. It’s one of the few fenced off-leash parks in Halifax Regional Municipality.
Sunday Miller, executive director of the Africville Heritage Trust, wants the park rules changed. The trust runs the replica Africville church located just outside the park fence.
“We've had visitors, tourists, come in and spend time out front wiping the feces off their shoes,” she said Tuesday.
Other visitors have had dogs jump on them and tear their clothes. Miller says the trust wants to further develop the Africville site to provide educational walking tours.
Some dog owners who use the park don’t agree.
Dog owners want good off-leash park
Pauline Rockwood brings her dogs to the park daily, year-round.
"I don't think it diminishes it in the least. I think it honours it, the fact that people want to come here and use it all the time,” she said.
Other dog owners, such as Lachlan MacDonald, said if the city can provide a new site for a fenced, off-leash park, they’d happily give up Africville Park.
“I used to come here a lot and then I stopped coming, because when I would be here, there would be a lot of dogs, but not people looking after their dogs,” he said. “I've definitely seen dog fights.”
Sunday Miller says the National Historic Site should be treated with greater respect on what many Nova Scotians consider to be sacred ground.
“I guess ultimately I would like councillors to listen to the people of Africville. Unfortunately that didn't happen in the '60s and '70s but hopefully it will happen today,” she said.
Last year, HRM crews cleaned the park after the summer family reunion, but not before. People at the reunion set up their tents and campers amid the dog waste.
An HRM staff report on the future of the park should come to council next month.