Saanich unanimously approved a strategy at a special council meeting that will help staff and council understand how to best share Saanich’s parks among dog owners and non-pet owners alike.
The investigative approach will commence through a ‘People, Parks and Dogs’ district-wide study. Staff will return to council with options for proceeding with a study in the fall of 2021. It was said in a report that the study will be large and inclusive since it will cover all of Saanich’s 170 parks and many beaches and fields.
At the June 14 meeting, councillors voiced their hope that a large public engagement such as this one will yield a balanced outcome, even though the fulsome process will inevitably take time.
“We need to develop a strategy because we need to be able to create safe, engaging parks and spaces for our residents,” said Coun. Zac de Vries. “It’s about recognizing the need for people to feel safe and comfortable in our parks, but also recognizing the need for off-leash recreation.”
Eulala Mills, a Saanich resident and dog owner, has been advocating for shared use of public parks since the notice of motion was brought to council in late May to keep three parks in Saanich as on-leash only. Due to the public outcry, council elected to have the motion evaluated in the larger study of all parks in Saanich.
Mills began speaking with people at Mt. Douglas, the park she uses most, and encouraging them to email council if they opposed the on-leash proposal.
She started an online petition after another resident received 62 hand-signed signatures in a matter of hours.
“At 6 p.m. I put up an online petition on Change.org and we had 660 people opposing the change in less than 24 hours,” Mills said.
She reached out to some council members to thank them for listening to the community outcry.
Mills supports the district’s study and said it is essential that it creates an open and balanced outcome, adding she will gladly collaborate on its creation.
Mayor Fred Haynes noted that dog-related issues at Cadboro-Gyro Park were being considered separately from the People, Parks and Dogs study. A decision to approve pathways for dog owners in Cadboro-Gyro Park was postponed while an information-gathering campaign by Animal Control is underway.
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