Plans for an off-leash dog park in Sidney are set for revisions, but councillors also pushed the project into the next phase of budget discussions.
Councillors meeting as committee-of-the-whole Monday unanimously asked staff to revise plans to turn portions of Resthaven Park into an off-leash dog park following a motion from Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith. Councillors also unanimously voted to forward the project to future budget discussions this month following another motion from McNeil-Smith.
“So long as we are not expecting staff to come back with their alterations before we go and have to approve and discuss this, I’m happy with this going forward to budget deliberations with Option B and the knowledge that we will probably be hearing more from the public on it and we will have the chance to discuss it afterwards,” said Coun. Sara Duncan.
The proposed budget is $40,000 with the work part of the 2022 capital budget.
“It has been something that the community has been looking for some time,” said Coun. Scott Garnett. “With a few modifications, it can be made to work in that area and hopefully then some of the concerns raised by residents can be addressed.”
Staff are now looking into re-designing the park’s interior pathway and realigning its northern boundary.
Previous public surveys show 67 per cent of respondents favour an off-leash dog area in the park. The municipality received 592 responses but the report acknowledged an apparent level of discomfort about the idea itself as 139 respondents skipped the question about the preferred size of the park.
“Staff suspect that these may have been respondents who were not in support of any kind of dog park in Resthaven Park,” it reads. It is against this backdrop that staff are recommending Sidney go ahead with the smaller version, covering about 50 per cent of the park. The larger option would cover about 80 per cent. “This (smaller option) also reduces the potential negative impacts that an off-leash dog park will have on other park users,” it reads.
Of the 453 respondents that answered the question about size, 51 per cent favoured the smaller footprint.
The survey identified three main categories of concern: negative impacts on other park users, concerns about the impact on birds and insufficient parking.
Sidney’s staff report noted Resthaven Park remains outside the regulatory bounds of the Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary. But acknowledged off-leash dogs in Resthaven Park will have some impact on migratory birds because of studies showing the presence of dogs increases the stress levels of birds. This has been included in staff’s evaluation process.
The federal government prohibits dogs and cats from running at large within the sanctuary, but “they do not have resources to actively enforce this regulation on a regular basis in Sidney,” noted the report. “Many residents are also unaware of this regulation. Given the status quo of park users allowing their dogs to run off-leash in the park, a fenced dog area will be a net benefit by reducing the number of off-leash dogs entering the bird sanctuary.”
As for parking, it will be monitored along Resthaven Drive in front of the park but the report noted many residents will be able to walk or cycle there.
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