Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Splash pad for dog days of summer

Kilcona Park Dog Club to present idea to city

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Donna Henry with her husband, Jeff, and their two dogs at Kilcona Dog Park, would like to see a canine splash pad added to the amenities. (Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press)

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Donna Henry with her husband, Jeff, and their two dogs at Kilcona Dog Park, would like to see a canine splash pad added to the amenities. (Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press)

Not only would Nora MacLeod take her dog Juno to a splash pad for canines, she'd also take a lawn chair.

"I'd go just to watch," MacLeod said, bundled up on a frigid Friday night while walking her best friend in Kilcona Park. "Even after we were done walking, I'd set up a chair and watch the show."

MacLeod and Juno might get that chance.

On Tuesday, members of the Kilcona Park Dog Club will present a proposal to the East Kildonan-Transcona community committee for the possibility of erecting what could be Canada's first public splash pad for dogs.

Club president Donna Henry said while the park already offers 49 hectares of off-leash trails and open space for canines and their owners, the splash pad would provide a much-needed alterative to the ponds of retaining water that are in the summer filled mostly with runoff from farmland near the park, located off Lagimodiere Boulevard, just south of the Perimeter Highway.

"The water quality in the ponds at Kilcona is questionable," Henry said. "The people who are using the park are saying, 'Let's provide a healthier alternative.' "

Henry estimates there are between 8,000 and 10,000 visits by dogs each week. In the summer, however, many owners and veterinarians have reported bouts of illness -- from skin disease to tract infections -- in dogs that have jumped into the ponds, regardless of their owners' wishes.

"It's gross," said Tara McLeod, who was walking her dog Layla. "I always have to bathe her afterwards. That (a water pad) would be a better option to clean."

In fact, the KPDC proposal is three-fold, providing potable water in year one, a wash area in year two and a cement splash pad in the third year.

Henry couldn't provide a cost estimate on the project, but said her 500-member club is prepared to help raise funds. Some of the group's 20 corporate sponsors have already expressed interest in getting involved, she added.

"The idea is wildly popular," Henry said. "People love it. Everybody is excited about this."

Henry said more research would proceed on cost estimates if the club gets initial approval from the community committee on Tuesday. "We're making sure we have support of council before we get too far down the road," she said.

Henry argues a splash pad isn't a luxury, but an asset to a park that plays an important role for dog owners and non-dog owners alike. For example, if a dog has a place to run off-leash and burn off energy, while becoming more social, they will bark less and behave better in general.

Besides, Henry added, there are almost as many dogs living in Winnipeg as children under 14 years old (125,000 kids, 110,000 dogs) -- yet the space for unleashed dogs is only a fraction (100 hectares) of parks and playgrounds set aside for children (400,000 hectares).

"Winnipeg is a little behind in developing dog parks," she said. "You can see there's a real discrepancy."

One possible means of funds could involve a membership fee. Although Henry was not aware of any public dog splash pads in Canada, in the U.S. there are several, which are enclosed and (most) require key cards for annual fees of $30.

All dog owners interviewed at the park on Friday -- although conditions were light years from the dog days of summer -- favoured the proposal.

"I think it's an awesome idea," said Diane Havens, noting several dog owners have expressed concern about the park's ponds.

"The dogs are coming back smelling," Havens said. "I've heard a lot about dogs getting sick, dogs getting infections."

Fellow dog owner Kevin Hilder added, "The dogs will love it in the summer. But will it mean costing us more in memberships?"

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 18, 2014 A8

History

Updated on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 12:15 PM CST: adds interactive graphic

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