Dog owners protest Vancouver's Trout Lake off-leash park plans
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Gloria Kieler has severe arthritis in her knees but she still tries to take her dog Luki for his daily walk at Trout Lake.
“He’s just such a good dog, I feel terrible that I can’t get him out twice a day,” Kieler told Metro.
But a Vancouver park board proposal to reduce the size of the off-leash area at the popular park has Kieler worried Luki will no longer have enough space to exercise. She isn’t alone.
More than 150 Vancouver dog owners are planning a protest against the proposal Sunday at the Trout Lake Dog Park on Victoria Drive. Currently, dogs can roam off-leash over 29,000 square metres in the park. The park board wants to reduce that to 6,000 square metres. The proposed plan would move the dog park from the north end of the lake to a fenced-in strip of land on the west side.
The protest is the latest in a string of complaints from Vancouver dog owners that the city doesn’t have enough off-leash dog parks to accommodate its growing pooch population. An online petition to remove the off-leash time restrictions at Kits Beach is also gathering steam with more than 1,000 signatures as of Friday.
Park board chair Aaron Jasper said he was aware of the protest, but said the new proposed area for the Trout Lake dog park is spacious enough. It would be equivalent to the size of a soccer field, he said.
The proposal was made in response to public complaints that the “dogs are taking over,” said Jasper. The parks board has a mandate to protect the green space, he said.
“A lot of those dogs are running amok and causing damage to greenery,” he said.
Jasper admitted the amount of off-leash green space for dogs is limited in this city. He said the park board is looking into setting aside funds in the capital plan to create more off-leash areas in Vancouver parks.
But, he said, dog owners also need to realize that parks need to be welcoming places for people as well.
“While they may love their dog and their dog is friendly … there are still a lot of people who don’t have that experience with canines,” he said. “They have to work with us to strike that balance.”
Still, Kieler said she feels dog owners are being unfairly penalized with the Trout Lake proposal.
Trout Lake is the closest off-leash dog park for Kieler, who runs the Living Waters mission on East Hastings.
The current off-leash area borders the parking lot, she said, and allows her to let Luki out of the car without having to walk far. With the new proposed park, Kieler— who uses a cane to help her walk— said she would need to walk the equivalent of one city block to get to the off-leash area.
“Most of the time we’re the only people in the park,” she said. “They’re trying to take the very best part of it away from us and give us a scrap. You know, leftovers for the dogs.”