Comox council voted unanimously to proceed with a public consultation process for off-leash dog parks within the town. Black Press file photo

Comox council turning to public for feedback on possible dog parks

Comox council has decided to keep an interim measure in place in response to off-leash dogs in the Northeast Woods following a proposal of two possible dog parks within the Town at Wednesday’s committee of the whole meeting.

At the meeting, council voted unanimously to proceed with a public consultation process for the parks which may include surveys and public meetings.

Late last month, the Town designated the Northeast Woods as an area where people may encounter dogs off leash. Mayor Russ Arnott said the measure is a temporary one until council was able to receive and review report and make a decision for the future.

During a council meeting in early December, council passed a motion for staff to examine the cost and location of an off-leash dog park and dog walking area.

In his report to council for Wednesday’s committee of the whole meeting, the Town’s superintendent of parks Al Fraser said it is important to consider not only the benefits but also risks and issues.

He noted engaging with the community is essential when planning for the development of a dog park, and public feedback will determine the level of acceptance and likely benefits it may bring to the community.

In his report, Fraser examined costs, core infrastructure, amenities, size, location, dog behaviour, health risks and local impacts. He added staff had a close look at every public park within the Town’s jurisdiction and determined the two locations – the Northeast Woods and Village Park (Comox Community Centre) – may be acceptable for the purposes of pre-public consultation.

Fraser said the Northeast Woods area has become popular with dog walkers and remains the most widely used trail networks within the community. He explained the area contains a number of parcels that hold different land tenure designations, many of which are contained within the boundaries of the conservation area. A parcel of undeveloped Crown land sits to the immediate west of the conservation area border may be an area worth considering as a designated off-leash area as it would be relatively easy and cost effective to demarcate as such. The parcel could be considered as leash optional, while the remainder of the parcels within the conservation area remain on-leash.

Fraser said the approximate budget for establishing an off-leash area in the woods would be $7,000 to $10,000.

The second proposed location of Village Park would be suitable for a medium-sized dog park, Fraser concluded. He said the field sees very little programmed activity and is situated in a central location with existing support infrastructure close to the site. The field is very flat, relatively well-drained, close to pedestrian routes with safe and open sight lines.

He determined in the report a fenced dog park would come at a cost of approximately $50,000 to $75,000, depending on the number of design features incorporated. The ongoing general maintenance costs associated with the project should be between $20,000 to $30,000 depending on how many times the infill mix is removed and refreshed.

In a report to council, Richard Kanigan, the Town’s chief administrative officer said in response to the signs at the Northeast Woods installed, they have received both positive and negative comments from the community.

He suggested that council provide direction on holding a public process, and estimated it would cost between $20,000 to $30,000 to facilitate such a process.

Arnott reminded the public at the meeting the Town is not currently telling the public to unleash their dogs when using the Northeast Woods.

“We’re saying you may encounter dogs who are off-leash, but there still is enforcement. It’s up to the dog owners to have control of their pets.”

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