A member of the Central Cariboo Recreation Advisory Committee is unimpressed with the dog park in Williams Lake.
It’s not because he doesn’t like dog parks — David Reedman stresses he’s not opposed to there being one — but he is disappointed by how much money was spent on it and how the decision was made.
He says the off-leash dog park, located behind the skate park in Boitanio Park, cost taxpayers $15,000, and based on a Jan. 17, 2012 city staff report provided by Reedman, the dog park is estimated to cost $5,000 a year for maintenance.
But city councillor Laurie Walters, a member of the dog park committee who campaigned for a dog park prior to last year’s election, says the dog park won’t cost the city $5,000 a year to maintain; mowing the grass, for example, would need to be done anyway.
She says the $15,000 spent was for fencing, and the dog park committee is actively fundraising to purchase items such as signage, benches, and irrigation.
Reedman stresses the $5,000 annual maintenance estimate is included in a city report.
“I wasn’t pulling that out of thin air,” he says, adding that while the dog park committee has committed to do some fundraising, the city still spent money before receiving any money from the committee.
And with lots of other projects listed as a priority, and the dog park not being one of them, he says he struggles to understand how a dog park got the green light.
According to an Oct. 11, 2011 city staff report, staff recommended city council approve the formation of a dog park stakeholder group to advise the city on possible locations and a design.
The report also noted there was no money allocated for creating the dog park and it’s not listed as a priority in the Parks, Trails, and Outdoor Recreation Master Plan or the Community Recreation Survey.
“Not necessarily things deemed a priority take the priority,” Walters says. “Smaller projects like these are going to move a community forward and have been identified as being a good thing for a community.”
Reedman says the project should have been referred to the CCRAC for input. Instead, a dog park committee was formed.
Walters says part of the reason the issue wasn’t referred to the CCRAC was due to it often not having a quorum.
“That advisory committee has been a really difficult committee, similar to some of the other committees we have at the city,” she says, adding a group of people (the dog park committee) was enthusiastic to take it on.
Reedman says the CCRAC still should have had input.
He says while there isn’t always a quorum, there had been a change in the terms of reference so a quorum isn’t required, and since the committee doesn’t have any decision-making power it shouldn’t matter. He says using a lack of quorum as a reason not to have the CCRAC involved is a “cop out.”
Reedman alleges staff advised against the dog park for reasons including there not being widespread support for a project; a dog park was not identified as a priority in the Parks, Trails, and Outdoor Recreation Master Plan; a dog park is not part of the Boitanio Park Master Plan; and the community recreation survey in early 2011 didn’t identify it as a priority.
Walters says city staff pointed out that projects like these are normally driven by the community, and the dog park was driven by a community committee.
“I certainly didn’t deal with staff that were against it or didn’t think it should happen,” she says.
Reedman says city staff had suggested using Comer Park as a trial dog park to determine how much use a dog park would receive and to help make future spending decisions on a permanent location. However, city council rejected the trial dog park and instead chose to place it in Boitanio Park.
He says there would have been benefits to using Comer Park as a test park because no money would have had to have been spent, since it is already fenced and electricity for lighting could be connected to existing power poles.
The October report says city staff considered there was no budget for a dog park and that there didn’t seem to be “widespread community desire” for one.
“The recent Central Cariboo Recreation Survey results and the ‘draft’ Parks, Trails and Outdoor Recreation Master Plan priorities were also considered,” the report says. “Based on these findings staff has proposed that to gauge community interest before any significant resources were spent that a dog park could be designated on a ‘trial’ basis at the Comer Park Ball Diamond.”
Walters says Comer Park wasn’t a prime location. At the time it wasn’t being used, but then a user group contacted the city wanting to book it, which would create an extra flow in revenue for the city.
Other options included different areas of Boitanio Park, Reedman notes, but not the location where it is now.
“As for the end result, I am not sure it’s a very good dog park either,” he says, adding the fence divides the park, the walkway that was there can no longer be used, and he is concerned how snow will be plowed.
Walters says there were issues with the other proposed locations in Boitanio Park — they would have created more irrigation work and weren’t close enough to the public washrooms, parking, lighting, and activities that take place in the park.
“If that location is not a good location or doesn’t work out, it’s not that difficult to move to a different location,” Walters says. “We are already thinking about where the next dog park is going to be.”
Walters adds research was done on other dog parks in other communities, including Kamloops, Prince George and Vernon, which all provided information on policy, procedure, and location.
Reedman says it appears the dog park is not being used very much.
“I saw one dog in there on Stampede weekend,” he says. “I am not against a dog park, but I don’t understand what the urgency was to do this, especially looking at the other factors with the cost overruns with the pool being shut down.”
Walters says council didn’t expect lots of people to start using the dog park right away but she thinks once more marketing is done and signs and other infrastructure are in place more people will take their dogs to the off-leash park.