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Dogfight at Comox council about off-leash parks

Comox council examined Wednesday if man's best friend needs more room to stretch its four legs.

Following a June presentation from a resident inquiring about the possibility of the creation of an off-leash dog park within the town, council debated the merits and locations of a potential park.

"Maybe we shouldn't be looking at designating one park, maybe we should be looking at two or three parks which would (be made to an off-leash park) certain days of the week," said Coun. Patti Fletcher. "You spread it around, make it more accessible ... consider two or three parks, two or three days a week at designated times."

Coun. Ken Grant questioned the liability issues that could stem from creating such a park.

"It seems to be there's insurance liability issues — in regards to Patti's (idea), if people don't pick up after their dogs, and there's kids coming after them I could see that as a problem," he noted, and added the suggestion of working with the City of Courtenay on a joint public forum to see what issues the public are concerned with by the creation of an off-leash park.

Grant also inquired why an existing town park couldn't work as one designated off-leash.

Al Fraser, parks superintendent said the bulk of parks in the town are immediately adjacent to residences.

"I've talked to a few people who've contacted me voicing their opinions that boarding a park they're fearful of noise and perceived unhealthy conditions regarding dog parks that are in close proximity to residences," he replied, and added there is concern with the preservation of wildlife in urban forested areas.

Coun. Tom Grant suggested the creation of an off-leash park at the 'dead-zone' at Highland Field, situated at the former site of a baseball diamond.

He added the area isn't used for anything expect people walking their dogs, and it is fenced on two sides.

"To my mind, it's a cheap alternative that satisfies the fact that we have the off-leash dog park, we can put up the bags and a garbage bag, and for a few thousand bucks, we've got it solved," he said.

Both Fraser and Mayor Paul Ives noted there are homes which back on to the Highland Field, and Ives added the area could see a significant increase in traffic.

Fletcher then suggested a motion for staff to create a report to consider two or three alternating parks throughout the town with various dates and times.

"I can see lots of conflict with cleaning up after your dog I can see this being a logistical nightmare for staff and the public as to figure what park it's going to be, and if it is going to be an issue with neighbours, aren't you just going to annoy three sets of neighbours instead of one?" noted Ken Grant.  "I couldn't support that because I can't my head around how this is going to work properly."

Ives agreed he could also not support the motion, and added his concerns are to keep the interest of taxpayers in mind in terms of risks.

"The last thing we want to see is somebody harmed by this. Here we would be running the risk of liability, so I wouldn't support the motion of a rotation, and I think this whole issue needs to be supported at a regional level," he said.

The motion was defeated, and the issue of working with Courtenay on a public forum will be presented at the next regular council meeting.

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