Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder
The discussion about whether owners should have to leash their dogs while visiting parks on Gabriola has been renewed.
At its Feb. 16 meeting, the Electoral Area B parks and open spaces advisory committee listened to a story from Suzanne Bizon, who said while on her bicycle in the parking lot to the 707 Community Park on North Road on Jan. 23, a man arrived in his car with his dog. Bizon says the dog jumped out of the car and “came out barking and growling.” She asked the man to control his dog, but the man did not and responded with expletives and proceeded into the park, Bizon asserts. Afterwards, she filed a report with RDN animal control.
Bizon said her experience with uncontrolled dogs usually happens while cycling in the trails, and indicated to the committee that she has heard of three other incidences between dogs and cyclists in the 707 since Jan. 23.
Asking owners to keep their pets under control is “an unworkable solution,” Bizon told the committee.
She wants to see 707 Community Park designated as an on-leash park.
“Many of the walkers have dogs and while some are leashed or are under control, a significant number are not,” Bizon wrote in a letter to Electoral Area B Director Vanessa Craig.
POSAC members mused the options and challenges the situation presents. Lu Lazzarotto, POSAC member-at-large, suggested designating certain trails within the 707 for cycling and dog-walking.
While the provincial parks and S’ul-hween X’pey (Elder Cedar) Nature Reserve have on-leash requirements, Descanso Bay Regional Park is the only RDN park on Gabriola where owners must leash their dogs. The rationale for that is related to challenges posed by campfires and food in the park, Yann Gagnon, RDN manager of parks, explained.
Dogs (leashe or off leash) are not permitted at all Coats Marsh Regional Park as per the Coats Marsh Regional Park Management Plan (link here).
Elsewhere, dogs are permitted in RDN parks if kept “under control,” the parks use bylaw stipulates, defined as a person “having custody of the animal has a clear line of sight to the animal at all times and is able to bring the animal to heel by calling.”
If leash requirements were to be expanded to other parks, enforcement could be challenging, Gagnon said. “The bylaw officer would have to catch the person in the act.”
Craig said she has received requests for a designated off-leash dog area on the island and wondered if that may help reduce incidences in other parks.