Saanich Parks staff are drafting up a report for council recommending a pilot project of temporary fenced off-leash dog parks within Saanich parks.
“We’re going to put in some temporary dog enclosed areas and really test with park visitors that have dogs, that don’t have dogs, how these sorts of enclosed areas work,” said Eva Riccius, senior manager of Saanich Parks.
Riccius says staff are still working out the details but they’re considering several parks in Saanich, including Cadboro-Gyro Park.
“We’re really hoping to strike a balance here for all parks visitors,” said Riccius. “Because parks really are for everyone.”
The report comes after the Cadboro Bay Residents’ Association sent a letter to the municipality’s parks, trails and recreation committee asking for some changes to dog restrictions.
“We are now in what I would call the perfect storm,” said Eric Dahli, chair of the association. “We’ve got the UVic dog field closed, we’ve got Willows Beach in Oak Bay closed and with changing regulations in Cadboro Bay effective May 1 … it’s created a situation.”
Seasonal restrictions banning dogs come into effect on May 1 until August 31 in some Saanich parks, including sections of Cadboro-Gyro park and beach, Cordova Bay beach, Mount Douglas park beach and Whitehead Park.
Restrictions are in place at the municipality’s swimming beaches to allow people to enjoy the summer months without dogs on the beach, Riccius explained. It’s also meant to protect wildlife in some areas.
“It’s important at this time of year when many of our waterfowl, ducks, geese et ceterea, have babies,” she said. “They’re in a sensitive state where they need rest and they need time to eat and feed their young. And so dogs, with their chasing wildlife, can stress out those animals.”
During this time period, pet owners can only walk their dogs before 9 a.m. in Cadboro-Gyro park and Cordova Bay beach.
Last spring and summer, the association surveyed more than 1,200 community members about the dog restrictions and received feedback from people who had dogs and those who didn’t.
“It covered the entire spectrum,” Dahli noted.
What they found, he added, was there isn’t enough space for those looking to walk their dogs — meaning the rules aren’t always followed.
“We’re concerned someone could get bit, someone could get knocked over,” said Barry Andruschak, a volunteer board member of the association.
After talking to several community members and people from other municipalities who had experience constructing dog parks, the association came up with an idea.
“Why can’t we solve several of the problems all at once by having — in the park itself — a dog park?” said Dahli.
In Cadboro-Gyro park, for example, there could be a temporary fenced section of the park specifically for off-leash dogs, far away from the beach, kids’ playground and picnic tables.
“It would take the pressure off the beach and in our view create a safe area for people and dogs,” explained Andruschak.
That idea, and the other items in the association’s letter, is what led to Saanich Parks’ staff report.
The report will also recommend including more signage around parks about dog restrictions, a letter by council to the University of Victoria about reopening its dog park, and amending bylaws to allow people to legally walk their dogs on the pathways connecting to the areas in the park where dogs are allowed.
Right now, to get from the main parking lot to the side of Cadboro Bay beach where dogs are allowed, people have to walk their dogs through the park illegally.
Under current bylaws, dogs are not allowed on the paved or gravel pathways and grassy areas in the park.
There are other entrances to the dog-friendly area off Telegraph Bay Road and Tudor Avenue, but the association notes parking is limited and it’s not accessible for those with limited mobility.