Downtown Winnipeg's Bonnycastle Park goes to the dogs

Fur goodness sake, Winnipeg's downtown dogs finally have a place to play.

Park is a 1,200-square-metre section of Bonnycastle Park along Assiniboine Avenue at Garry Street

The City of Winnipeg's downtown dog park opened Thursday. (CBC)

Fur goodness sake, Winnipeg's downtown dogs finally have a place to play.

The oft-delayed dog park in downtown is a 1,200-square-metre section of Bonnycastle Park, located between the Assiniboine River and Assiniboine Avenue, at Garry Street. The $400,000 park officially opened at 11 a.m. Thursday.

The downtown dog park is a 1,200-square-metre section of Bonnycastle Park, located between the Assiniboine River and Assiniboine Avenue, at Garry Street. (CBC)

The idea of an off-leash park has dogged Mayor Brian Bowman ever since he made it a campaign promise in 2014.

Bonnycastle was finally identified as the site in July 2016 with plans to open it by November 2016. However, the plans were delayed due to objections from Crystal Developers, which owns a new 25-storey apartment building just west of the park.

The dogs were let out to play on Thursday. (CBC)

The city held off construction to give officials a chance to speak with Crystal Developers, which expressed concern about noise from barking dogs potentially bothering residents of their "upscale" building.

The company also questioned the location of the park, saying there were no pet-friendly buildings within walking distance of it.

Mayor Brian Bowman and Indiana (right, lower to the ground) opened the city's downtown dog park. (Bartley Kives/CBC)

The city made some adjustments to the landscaping design and pushed ahead, saying it owned the land and the park was something people wanted.

Winnipeg planning, property and development director John Kiernan said berms were installed between the park and Crystal's tower. The dog park will also close overnight, though lights will be installed by spring to illuminate the grounds during the evening, he said. 
The oft-delayed dog park in downtown is a 1,200-square-metre section of Bonnycastle Park, located between the Assiniboine River and Assiniboine Avenue, at Garry Street. The $400,000 park officially opened Thursday. 2:01

He also said the city will keep the park's plastic surface clean.

"It's an artificial turf which is designed for dog parks. So it's flushable, which is important for dog parks," Kiernan said.

Bowman joked Thursday about the time it took to build a park roughly the size of an Olympic swimming pool.

"I don't think the dogs will mind. They may not be as aware of the wait as we are at city hall. I just look forward to being able to have this amenity for downtown residents," said the mayor, adding the extra time was required to placate Crystal Developers.

Crystal vice-president Heidi Spletzer said she remains unhappy. She says in the few days the park has been open to the public dog owners are already allowing their pets to roam on Crystal's property and are fouling the front entrance of its tower at 300 Assiniboine Ave. 

"Not only are they running amok in the area between the dog park and our building but they are coming into the front door of our building and leaving little presents for us to clean up after," she said, claiming dog owners are not respecting the neighbourhood.

More from CBC Manitoba:

With files from Darren Berhhardt and Bartley Kives