Saturday, October 3, 2009

Feedback from city about my request for a report on Off Leash Strategy

I got an email today from John Charles about a report that was supposed to be presented to Regional Council this past June, 2009 regarding the implementation of the Off Leash Strategy - I had brought it up at the Robert Drive Dog Park meeting and the Municipal Councilor Bill Karsten had no idea about it - and a couple days later I emailed the media office - Deborah Story, asking for a copy of it.

John Charles emailed me back today -

"Your recent email was forwarded to me for response. Deborah Storey is the Manager of Marketing, Design, & Print Services. I believe you might have been trying to contact Shaune MacKinlay, Manager of Public Affairs however any questions concerning the Off Leash Parks Strategy can be sent to me in the future.

There appears to be a misunderstanding regarding the staff report you've requested. I hope the following information will explain the situation. If not, please contact me.

The Off Leash Parks Strategy was approved by Regional Council in June, 2007. The Strategy contained many implementation estimates regarding dates for project startup, mid-term review and final review. It contained a recommendation for staff to monitor the program over a 24 month period and then report back to HRM Council in June 2009. The schedule anticipated that all 5 pilot off leash parks would open by September 1, 2007. As it turned out, it wasn't until November 17, 2007 that all the parks were open. At this point the Off Leash Parks Interdepartmental Committee that coordinates the off leash program is preparing information for a report is that expected to be completed early in 2010. I will notify you when the report is available."

So I emailed Mr. Charles back thanking him for his email and said that I looked forward to receiving the report in early 2010.

So we'll all wait with baited breath until then.

On the HRM's website they have a page where people's comments are posted who send them in about the off leash strategy - and a person who was at the meeting last week has their comment about Robert Drive and the meeting posted there, and it's a fabulous comment - here is what she said - you can find the comments from the strategy posted here -

Public Comments Robert Drive Off Leash AreaNeighbourhood Meeting, September 23, 2009
Posted September 28th 2009

While there may be some small amount of compromise found from this meeting, it is by no means a viable solution by any stretch of the imagination.

I find it prejudicial that an any other recreational activity I want to participate in from skateboarding to Tennis, I can find dedicated venues, but because my recreation time includes my dog, I am penalized by not having appropriate facilities that I can access within my community of Dartmouth.

As many, or more dog owners need safe fenced parks to enjoy stress free leisure time with their pets, than do those who need unfenced areas. While five years ago, the strategy may have suggested otherwise, that was then and this is now. It is unfair to the residents of Robert Drive and their families to shoulder the burden of that park being the only fully fenced park accessible to owners of dogs. There is absolutely no reason, economic or otherwise, that a compromise can't be reached whereby owners of dogs have access to more areas, and the areas are not over taxed by continual use.

As an interim proposal, I would like to suggest the following.

1). Seven different fenced areas in each of the following areas: Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford, and Sackville. These fenced areas to each be utilized one full day each week, 5:00 AM to 10:00 PM for a total of four dog accessible parks open in the HRM every day of the week, thereby lessening wear and tear and traffic to any given field on any given day. This would benefit dog owners and local residents alike, while not increasing the burden on an over taxed budget.

This would hopefully eventually lead to :

2) The allocation of a dedicated park in each of the areas singularly for the use of owners and their dogs that is a user paid facility akin to a recreational complex with membership fees to cover expenses. You say there are no funds, but there is plenty of unused land that could be fenced with the membership fees paying off the fencing. You say parks are for people..this is true, but as many people own dogs as not. My taxes pay for ball fields and hockey rinks my kids don't use..where is the equity in this system? Where is the equity for individuals with mild to moderate physical limitations who want to have a safe place to exercise with their dogs, and where else can seniors who can't keep up with the exercise demands of younger active dogs go? If there were safe fenced areas, they would be well utilized and not over tax any single venue.

It is time for the HRM to get out of the dark ages when it comes to park allocation. Access to multiple safe parks, fenced and unfenced is a good business strategy. When people are happy and have recreation, they are more productive. When dogs have access to safe venues for exercise, they cause fewer disturbances. A tired dog is a good dog. Good dogs mean fewer compliance issues, fewer bites, etc. One only has to look overseas at how inclusive England is with their canine companions to see that we are way off the mark in how we deal with the same issues.

I want to see the portion of my taxes that are allocated to recreation to reflect the recreational interests of my family. I don't think that is too far fetched to ask for. It is time for a change in the way we think of "sports" fields. They are "recreational venues" and should I decide to play soccer or fly a kite, or play ball with my dog, I should have safe and appropriate access to the type of facility that meet my needs as a tax payer and pet owner.

Kim Manson

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:25 AM

    Bravo Kim, if only there were more people like you working for HRM instead of the troupe of dog-hating clowns we have there now.