Our spring has already given us some great weather for being outdoors in the region’s parks, and of course the pandemic is increasing the numbers of people who are getting outside rather than pursuing indoor activities.
At Mt. Douglas / PKOLS Park, though, popularity is making the park experience unpleasant for many. As more and more people head to the park with their dogs, or as part of commercial dog-walking services, the number of off-leash dogs is damaging the park and frightening park users.
It’s fine to suggest (as signage and the Saanich website do) that dogs should “be under control” in the park, but frankly that’s not happening. When an exuberant large dog runs ahead of its handler to jump up on a child, then runs back to the handler who (unseen, around the corner of a trail) has whistled, that dog is not ‘under control.’
Nor is the dog who goes off into the woods to defecate or chase birds.
Dogs running off-leash create more and more informal trails through the underbrush, which are then followed by people, and sensitive habitat is invaded and trampled.
I understand that staff are reviewing the guidelines for dogs in all Saanich parks, but the time is now to make some simple changes at Mt. Douglas, before more harm is done (to people, other dogs, or plants and wildlife). Two changes would address the problem in the short term, while a larger review is completed: require all dogs to be on-leash, and limit each person to having two (or three?) dogs with them at any time.
I love dogs and I think it’s unfortunate that many people are developing negative responses to dogs, based on what is happening at Mt. Doug Park every day. No doubt we also need more off-leash areas dedicated specifically to dogs and their owners/handlers.
Right now, though, there’s a problem that calls for action. I encourage Saanich council to enact these two changes as soon as possible.