Why the short leash? Burlington residents wants more dog parks

Published December 6, 2019 at 2:00 pm

Burlington should loosen its leash when it comes to local dog parks.

Burlington should loosen its leash when it comes to local dog parks.

That’s the general consensus among respondents to the city’s survey of over 500 residents–78 per cent of which were dog owners.

Among the recommendations that will be presented to Burlington council are to expand parks outside city boundaries and allow more flexibility in design. An update to the existing criteria used to establish dog parks in Burlington could lead to more options for local pup owners.

The City of Burlington currently has three dog parks: Bayview Park (est. 2000), Roly Bird Park (2010), and Norton Park (2012)–which has a designated small dog area. One of the concerns raised by residents who were surveyed was that there wasn’t enough parking available at the current locations, leading to the recommendation that more dog parks could increase the likelihood that residents would walk to their nearest leash-free. Incidentally, fewer people driving and more people walking also fit into the city’s “A Healthy and Greener City” initiative. Win-win, right?

The addition of more dog parks also addresses the City of Burlington’s focus on the rapid population growth and intensification. Win-win-win. So what are they waiting for?

The Burlington Parks and Recreation Department admits there are challenges in establishing new leash-free areas to fit the requirements of the current criteria. Mainly, the minimum required size of the parks (0.30 hectres, which is roughly one-third the size of a soccer field), and the exclusion policy that forbids leash-free dog parks that do not contain a “significant barrier” to playgrounds, splash pads, sports fields, waterfronts, cemeteries, and residential housing.

What is a “significant barrier”? Well, no one knows for sure–which is part of the problem.

While residents surveyed support the exclusion policy, there was concern over its ambiguity. The recommendation being presented to council will clarify what is considered a significant barrier and propose “a minimum setback of 15 metres” from excluded areas.

The Parks and Rec department will also propose that the minimum neighbourhood leash-free dog park size requirement be lowered to 500 square-metres from the current 3,300.

Also being recommended to council is an amendment to the policy that all parks must be within City of Burlington boundaries. The change would allow parks to be established on property or land leased by the city, such as hydro corridors.

The findings and recommendations will go to council on Dec. 16.

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