For longtime Saanich resident Trish Fougner, walking her black lab Shadow in Mount Douglas park is part of her daily routine.
“It’s the only place in Saanich this size that people can get the physical and mental health (benefits) they want,” says Fougner.
But walking Shadow off leash throughout the park might soon be off the table, with the district of Saanich releasing the draft of its people, pets and parks strategy, which was started back in 2021.
The biggest change? Amending the current bylaw which allows dogs to be off leash in all Saanich parks to requiring dogs to be leashed at all times, except in designated fenced areas or fenced dog parks.
It’s a move Fougner says the majority of Saanich residents do not support.
“Why change the world when for the most part, 73 per cent of people in these parks, in all Saanich parks, are dog owners, and we feel like we’re not being heard,” says Fougner.
In a statement Tuesday, the district says public feedback wanted the strategy to “recognize the needs of different park users while protecting natural areas and habitat, and that “there is a need for parks to accommodate different types of pets/dogs depending on size, behaviour, level of training, age, and mental state.”
If implemented, the project would include a spend of $5 to $7 million over the next five years to cover the cost of fencing and park maintenance in 57 parks that have been identified as being suitable for off-leash areas.
For Mount Douglas park, that means a 1.5-kilometre fenced trail loop.
“To go from 21 kilometres of trails in Mount Doug park, PKOLS, to a 1.5-kilometre loop and shoving everybody who wants to go off leash in that area is absolutely ridiculous,” says Fougner.
“It’s just like a pressure cooker for a situation, and unfortunately, it seems that’s what’s been delivered to us,” says dog walker and trainer Zoe Anderson.
The strategy also proposes that Saanich creates and implements a commercial dog walking permit, but the plan is leaving dog walkers like Anderson with more questions than answers.
“It doesn’t tell us anything, we don’t even know the price or how it’s going to affect us,” says Anderson.
The final strategy will be presented to Saanich council on June 26.