One of my least favourite ways to spend an evening is with John Charles, Coordinator Real Property Policy, Real Property Planning - who was facilitating the meeting tonight with concerned local residents, ball team players, parents and officials, parents of preschool children attending summer programs at the Larry O’Connell Centre and off leash proponents along with city staff and Councillor Watts - to talk about extending the off leash time at the Larry O'Connell Field off Chebucto Road in Halifax. It would have been interesting if all those parties showed up to the meeting, but the only people who showed up were dedicated dog owners who actually use the field daily with their dogs, city staff - and me. So the conversations were rather one sided. This was a follow up to my post a couple days ago about the sports field and the fact that the Minor Ball Association had put a batting cage in the park without the neighbourhood residents consultation
Everyone was agreed that the park was used responsibly by the dog owners, and that the park's time for off leash use would be extended to the summer and fall - pending the continued good turf condition of the ball field. The dog owners were really hoping that the city would install gates on the two entrances to the field that were currently open - but John Charles said that the Off leash strategy does not allow for gates to be installed in dog parks - if you can believe this, John Charles cited a report from 2006 (like as if we should consider this to be timely to 2010!!!) that states -
"planning for dog related use in our parks should embrace barrier-free or universal design princicles. Universal design seeks to create products and environments that are useful and useable by everyone. Universal design does not segregate or stigmatize any group of users and attempts to provide the same means of use for all; identical where possible, equivalent when not. While dog-related activities in HRM parks should be accessible to all, conflicting uses may necissitate that not all parks may be accissible to all users at all times. (page 5)
So in other words - there will be NO FENCED IN DOG PARKS in the HRM - EVER. There will be no fence built in Seaview - and I asked that question point blank - and the staff member named Blair Blakeney, Coordinator of Facility Development Parks said - NO, there will be no fence built at Seaview - that is not something the HRM will support - so Seaview people - there will be no fence built at Seaview Park. Or anywhere else.
So during the meeting - I asked John Charles - "how do we get this policy changed" - and he trotted out this same old line that he has trotted out at every other meeting I have ever gone to with him - at the off leash strategy sessions - the people of the HRM didn't want fenced in dog parks.
And then he went on to say that he's just come from from Toronto where they have instituted fenced in dog parks all across the city. WAH? And then he goes on to talk about maybe someone wants to set up a PRIVATE fenced in dog park somewhere within the Municipality.
So if you want a fenced in dog park somewhere in the HRM - John Charles email address is - firstname.lastname@example.org and his phone number is 490-5771
I advised the people at the meeting tonight that they shouldn't be in a hurry to fence in the Larry O'Connell field anyway, because it would probably quickly go the way of the Robert Drive Park - people would hear it was completely fenced in and they would have dog owners coming in from all over the Municipality to run their dogs and the turf would be decimated and the City would shut the park down very quickly - BECAUSE the dog owners of the HRM so DEARLY NEED fenced dog parks all over the City and currently have NONE, whenever one does open up - all dog owners are like moths to a light and just swoop in and take over when they hear about one.
So I warned to dog owners, and I think they are happy to keep their gates unfenced - and their park nice and small - and happy that they're now allowed to have a legal offleash area for more of the year.
It's truly pathetic that the City Bureaucrats and the "Interdepartmental Off Leash Committee" has such an anti-dog view - even though 2 of the members declared themselves to be dog owners. I'd really like to know when John Charles is retiring - because I truly believe that is the only time that we as a city are ever going to move forward on dog friendliness in relation to dog parks. Truly. And that is sad.