A group of dog owners get the jump on the new dogs off leash rule in the early morning Monday at Fisherman’s Wharf Park in Victoria. As part of a one-year pilot project, the park officially becomes an off-leash area on July 1, between the hours of 6:30 and 8:30 a.m. Oaklands Park is also new to the list. Don Descoteau/Victoria News

Fisherman’s Wharf, Oaklands parks added to off-leash dog mix in Victoria

Victoria councillors approve year-long pilot project

Tim Collins/Victoria News

Pooches in Victoria will soon have more space to run off-leash after Victoria councillors voted to add two more parks to the city’s list for a one-year trial period.

Beginning July 1, Fisherman’s Wharf park will become an off-leash area from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m., a time allotment that takes into account the heavy crowds that frequent the popular tourist destination. Oaklands Park will also be designated as an off-leash area.

Mayor Lisa Helps described the plan as a pilot program designed to give council a better perspective on a long-term plan for dealing with the sometimes competing interests of people looking to allow their dogs some off-leash freedom and those who are against the concept.

“If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But if it does work, then we get some valuable information back and that will help us develop a strategy for dogs in parks that will be very (useful),” said Helps.

The idea of extending the off-leash concept to popular Gonzales Beach was rejected by councillors, who were sitting as committee of the whole. They worried about dogs defecating in the tidal zone and having that material enter the water at high tide, contaminating the swimming area.

Thomas Souliere, city director of parks, said not only are dogs already welcome on the beach between Sept.1 and May 31, in his experience dog owners are responsible and clean up after their animals.

But Coun. Ben Isitt was unconvinced, doubting that all dog owners would “wade into the muck of the tidal areas” to clean up after their pets. “It’s probable that at least some of them would be unlikely to climb into the rocks to clean up after their pets,” he said.

Coun. Geoff Young was equally incredulous about whether dog owners would consistently clean up after their pets at the popular beach. He also offered a tongue-in-cheek observation that as Gonzales Beach straddles the boundary between Victoria and Oak Bay, he hoped dogs were all aware of where that boundary line lies.

“We wouldn’t want Oak Bay to have to put up rolls of barbed wire to safeguard their part of the beach,” he deadpanned.

The addition of the two off-leash areas for the one-year pilot will bring the number in Victoria to 15. A listing of the parks can be found at http://bit.ly/2s0Zrtf.

editor@vicnews.com

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