Dog owners across Greater Victoria received a large blow this week after the Cedar Hill Corner, informally known as the UVic Dog Park, closed to the public as the university decides what to do with it.
The piece of land, located in Cadboro Bay on the southeast side of the University of Victoria (UVic) campus, has been used as a fenced-in space for walkers, runners and dogs for decades, but was closed back in March due to COVID-19.
Many dog owners were hoping it would reopen as restrictions loosened, but it didn’t happen.
“Really sad, it’s just kind of breaking all of our hearts right now,” said dog owner Allison Ward, who also started the UVic Dog Park Pals Facebook group. “With COVID right now, we’re needing our dogs to get out,. They’re kind of our support system.”
The space is not actually a park. The university simply allowed it to be used for recreation by the public, but it was always destined to be used for an educational institution.
“Over the long term, Cedar Hill Corner is a vital asset to enable the future expansion of the university. The university’s 2016 Campus Plan establishes a goal to create a long-term plan to develop the property,” reads a statement on the UVic website.
And that plan is starting now.
“The continued closure allows the university to conduct a property management review including exploring opportunities for the property to better support the university’s academic mission,” said the post-secondary school, as workers look into forestry research on the property.
No plans are set and construction is possibly years away, but it’s still no dogs allowed.
“We do respect that it is university property, and we’re so grateful we’ve had the time that we’ve had but if it’s going to be vacant for a year or 18 months or something, there’s a lot of people and a lot of dogs that would love to use the space,” said Ward.
The decision to keep the space closed has created other side effects. Nearby residents say the closure of Cedar Hill Corner means pups are being pushed onto the already contested Cadboro Bay Beach.
‘There’s definitely more dogs down here, particularly certain times of the day,” said Liz Miller, a member of the Cabdoro Bay Residents Association.
Miller says the spike in dogs on the beach isn’t only because of the UVic space closure, but possibly because more people are going outside due to COVID-19. The nearby Willows Beach restricts dogs between May 1 and Sept. 30.
“It aggravates already existing issues down here and then, how do we respond? Do we get more restrictions? Then where does it go?” questioned Miller.
Dog owners say they’re running out of options.
“We as dog owners feel were getting corralled into fewer and fewer places, and that’s when problems do arise,” said Ward.
UVic has not released a reopening date or timeline for the area, simply saying they are using this time to review the space, but dog owners and their furry friends are hoping they’ll be welcomed back soon.
For now, Ward and her dog Alfie, are waiting for the space to possibly reopen, but are also hoping the District of Saanich will invest in more fenced spaces.