The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) will tackle ongoing problems with dogs at Shirley Macey Park by installing educational signs, fencing off areas used by children, and enlisting volunteers to monitor the park during peak-use periods, the SCRD’s community services committee voted last week.
The measures are intended to reduce complaints about dogs overrunning the multi-use park at 930 Chamberlin Road in West Howe Sound.
“Shirley Macey is where we, by far, get the most complaints about dogs,” parks planning coordinator Trevor Fawcett told the committee on June 12. “There are others, but Macey is certainly the highest number of complaints.”
While the SCRD parks bylaw prohibits dogs running off-leash, current signage advises dog owners only to keep their pets out of the park’s playground area.
“The one thing we would like to see is at least a separation of the playground area, the environmental area and the gardens,” Fawcett said. “Our observation there is that dogs are running fairly freely, not so much in the environmental area, but within the playground, within the sandbox, within the gardens, and a lot of the issues are caused by that.”
In his report, Fawcett said on a recent site visit to the park, five owners and dogs arrived by vehicle, and only one dog was leashed.
“The unleashed dogs immediately ran to rocks, posts, furniture or the building to urinate; one dog ran into the children’s playground, the others ran onto the sports field,” where most of them were allowed to run uncontrolled.
“Parks staff currently spend approximately one hour prior to cutting the grass, walking the sports fields and park, cleaning up sticks, rocks, dog feces and filling holes,” the report said.
West Howe Sound director Lee Turnbull said the issue with dogs at Shirley Macey Park has been long-standing, and that both dog owners and other users are “very passionate” on the subject.
“This park has long been an exercise park for dogs. Shifting to something else is going to cause upset,” Turnbull said, suggesting the SCRD “start with a few smaller things” to address the problems.
Gibsons alternate director Lee Ann Johnson said with the Coast’s aging demographics, more people own pets and need safe areas to exercise them in.
“At Shirley Macey I can see if there’s a bear there. I can see if there’s a vicious dog. I can see what’s going on,” Johnson said.
The committee agreed to four staff recommendations:
• Posting educational or humorous signs similar to the District of North Vancouver, such as “Dog Guardians: In a world where everyone is looking out for number one, who’s taking care of number two? Pick up after your dogs. Thank you.”
• Installing a split-cedar fence and signage to separate the playground, environmental area, garden and sports field.
• Organizing volunteers and representatives from dog groups to help educate dog owners “on the expectations and restrictions of dog walkers using the park,” and also monitor high-use periods.
• Including a “dogs in park” educational page in the SCRD Recreation Guide to be published in August.
Turnbull shot down a fifth recommendation — to start discussions with dog owners to develop a dedicated off-leash area east of the sports fields — due to the cost.
Directors did not direct staff to enforce the dog bylaw’s off-leash prohibition or place signage to that effect.
The motion will come back to the board for adoption on June 26.
© Coast Reporter