Edmonton

Edmonton closes fenced off-leash dog parks amid pandemic

The City of Edmonton is closing its fenced off-leash dog parks starting this weekend, while council's emergency renewed a state of local emergency to deal with COVID-19.

Edmonton extends state of local emergency for the 2nd time to deal with COVID-19

The city's 38 off-leash dog areas will be switch to on-leash areas as of Saturday morning. (Emily Rendell-Watson/CBC)

The City of Edmonton is closing fenced off-leash dog parks, council's emergency advisory committee heard Thursday. 

As of Saturday morning, Lauderdale, Alex Decoteau, Manning Village and Paisley will be closed to the public. 

The city's 38 other off-leash areas will be switched to on-leash. 

Keeping dogs on-leash reduces the potential for owners to have to intervene with other people if their dog runs off, the city says. 

Councillors said they expect complaints from residents about the decision. 

During the meeting, Coun. Scott McKeen asked if there was a way to be able to keep the Alex Decoteau park open, such as having a volunteer monitor behaviour. 

"[It's] a very popular amenity in a very high-density area," McKeen said. "That is an incredibly important amenity for people living in the downtown." 

But David Aitken, the chair of the city's COVID-19 task team, said the closure is a necessary measure to prevent overcrowding.

"We think as we move deeper into the pandemic, that this is the first step of many." 

Aitken said the city will continue to monitor the crowds in the park. 

"We certainly understand the frustration that comes with shutting down those facilities that are well-used but we think it errs on the side of caution and safety and it's something right now that we think is needed." 

All off-leash parks in cities like Toronto and Montreal are closed, he noted. 

In further measures announced Thursday, the city is looking at closing lanes of Saskatchewan Drive between 105th and 109th Streets and Victoria Promenade to vehicles.

The city is also considering limiting traffic on River Valley Road but it's not clear when lanes will be closed. 

The new measures come as the emergency advisory committee agreed to renew the city's state of local emergency to deal with COVID-19.

It's the second time council has extended the order after it was initially declared on Mar. 20.

By law, the state of local emergency, which gives the city extraordinary authority to impose restrictions on public activity, needs to be renewed every seven days.

The city has imposed several restrictions on the Edmonton public in the past two weeks, including strict rules for taxis and ride-sharing services on Wednesday. 

Edmonton transit service announced Thursday it is adding more security on buses and LRT stations after receiving more reports of aggressive behaviour and homeless people using public transit as a shelter. 

@natashariebe

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