Establishing off-leash hours at Vimy Ridge Memorial Park could meet a deepening demand for an off-leash dog park in Wolseley, a local residents group says.
It’s a top option the Wolseley Residents’ Association is pitching to the community following a conflict over the repurposing of the lawn bowling green in the park earlier this year.
For the last year, the fenced space, nearly an acre in size, has sat idle, with both dog owners and bocce players expressing a desire to use it.
The WRA is proposing off-leash hours for the park, similar to Vancouver, where dogs can have the run of the park in the early morning and late evening hours.
"We’d have to do this as a trial to see if it would work before it would be implemented," said WRA chair Cynthia Neudoerffer.
Off-leash hours would address tensions some community members have with some dog owners who choose to let their dogs off leash in Vimy Ridge even though it is currently illegal, Neudoerffer said.
"I think that’s how this issue really bubbled up in the first place," she said.
Two other options include sharing the bowling green — have it open to bocce players from April to November, and to dog owners through the winter — or turning one-third of the baseball area in Omand’s Creek Park into a year-round dog park.
With greenspace at a premium in Wolseley, it’s imperative to reach a consensus, Neudoerffer said.
"We need to think creatively of how can we share these spaces and get the most use out of these spaces," she said.
All three options will require working with the city to accommodate the plans, Neudoerffer said. She hopes the issue can be resolved by next spring with continued community input and consultations with the city.
The city, meanwhile, would be open to considering off-leash hours, said Dave Domkey, manager of parks and open space.
Winnipeg’s public works director has the authority to designate off-leash parks in consultation with the head of animal services, according to the pound bylaw.
Parks generally have to be removed from children play areas, scheduled athletic fields and other heavily-used public spaces, roadways and railway tracks.
Most of the city’s 12 existing dog parks are located on the fringe of suburban areas because of the large parcels of land they require, Domkey said. Bringing parks to dense urban areas remains a challenge, he said.
"There are not large pieces of land to accommodate this," he said, noting the city’s pound bylaw doesn’t regulate the standard size of a park.
"We’re not going to have an acre site with 200 dogs coming on."
The city is too used to thinking as a suburban city and must look to cities like New York and Vancouver which have made off-leash parks under 900 square feet work in dense urban spaces, Neudoerffer said.
The ideal solution is finding a park that is wheelchair-friendly and serves both ends of Wolseley while still continuing the hundred-year-old tradition of lawn bowling in the community, she said.
"If we could have something at Omand’s Creek and something small in the east end of Wolseley, that would be ideal," she said. "Finding something in east end of Wolseley is the challenge."
For more information, visit www.wolseleyresidents.ca.