Puppy paradise

Little Mountain Park is a treasure for dogs... and their owners

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As a relative newcomer to the city, friends continue to recommend their favourite dog parks to me. I have yet to take Bella, my pup, to any off-leash area without a well-behaved dog to show her the way. Lacking canine guidance, she'd ditch me like a reality-show girlfriend.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/04/2009 (4905 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

As a relative newcomer to the city, friends continue to recommend their favourite dog parks to me. I have yet to take Bella, my pup, to any off-leash area without a well-behaved dog to show her the way. Lacking canine guidance, she’d ditch me like a reality-show girlfriend.

With that in mind, I regret not taking my dog to meet up with Lloyd Johnson, head of Little Mountain Pet Owners Association. He and his two well-behaved Labradors, Shelby and Cole, escorted me around this northwest locale to exemplify why he feels Little Mountain Park is the best dog park in the city.

It quickly became obvious why so many Winnipeggers love to frequent this recreational area. If dogs could talk, Shelby and Cole would call their favourite play place “pure joy.” They’d also tell me, “Next time you come, bring treats.”

COURTNEY CAMPBELL/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS/APRIL 15 2009-Lloyd Johnson plays with his black Labrador retrievers Shelby and Cole at Little Mountain Park. Johnson, who frequents the park often with his pets, has concerns over the development happening to the east of the park.

Johnson visits the park regularly and says, “It’s a perfect place for dogs to be dogs.” He isn’t alone in this observation. Melissa Minsky and her puppy, Jessie James, enjoy the park daily. Minsky said, “My dog gets excited when we turn to drive here.”

Dubbed by Winnipeg’s city website as one of its Living Prairie Museums, you’ll discover that this 65-hectare area offers more than a mere walk in a park. It’s touted as significant both as a natural area and for its historical background.

On the north side of the park, there’s a wide-open field, decent parking, washroom facilities and a pond formed from historic former quarry pits. The pond is said to be the site for paranormal activity. Johnson told me that paranormal experts saw a face in the pond. As Winnipeg’s biggest chicken, I can assure you I’m not going to try to replicate the experience.

The south end of the park offers aspen-lined trails which abut a portion of Players Golf Course. It’s a good place to find golf balls, says Johnson.

Further winding trails, a small parking lot and an off-leash area comprise much of the west side of Little Mountain Park. This area eventually conjoins with the north end’s huge field. It’s where much of the action occurs. Dogs converge at the field to socialize. Dog owners have been known to mingle there, too.

Little Mountain Park Pet Owners Association doesn’t take this park for granted. Approximately 60 people gather every spring to clean up, said Johnson. Volunteers also collect trash throughout the winter. Knowing that a myriad of species over-winter this woodland space, volunteers provide food for the wild birds. Johnson revealed that there have been sightings of blue jays, chickadees, snowy owls and even eagles on the property. While strolling, owners have also witnessed deer, skunk, fox and evidence of porcupine. Keen observers may have noticed that I neglected to describe the east segment of the park. That’s because this section holds special distinctions. In the northeast, a historic cottonwood tree (planted in the 1890s) hugs Farmer’s Road. The Little Mountain Park Owners Association’s website notes that this tree is the sole reminder of the existence of Mount Royal village.

The second distinguishing aspect of Little Mountain Park’s east side is called Little Field. This area once had trees which served as a barrier between the southeast side of the park and private farmland. According to Johnson, the trees were felled and the underbrush was burned. The private farm land was sold. In its place, are paved roads awaiting commercial development. This development will lie alongside the looming future expansion of Chief Peguis Trail.

While Johnson would never want to stymie development of the city he’s lived most of his life in, he does wonder about the future status of this much-loved park. The recent announcement of the CentrePort development plans by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Gary Doer has Johnson and other association members worried. They fear the allure of commercial development may entice the government to expropriate some, or all, of the land.

A Manitoba government spokesman assured me that it’s not in the plans. But I doubt this will allay Johnson’s fears entirely. Years ago, his family experienced the expropriation of Birds Hill Park first-hand.

It’s easy to look at a map and justify alterations to a city. I’ve done it myself. When changes occur, patrons of Little Mountain Park hope the park experiences the same fate as the cottonwood standing on its northern corner. Despite possible development around it, they long for Little Mountain Park to remain as a monument to Winnipeg’s past and tactile part of its future.

Having visited this park, I now understand why volunteers work to keep it enjoyable for others. Bella and I plan to use it, with or without outside canine guidance. Just so you know, I will bring treats.

char.adam@mts.net

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