BANFF – Banff’s off-leash dog park has been closed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Town of Banff officials say it is too difficult to keep the gate of the fenced dog park in the industrial compound properly sanitized and too hard to control the physical distancing requirement of two metres between people.
“It was a very tough decision and we debated this one at length, but at the end of the day every decision we make is about protecting our residents,” said Silvio Adamo, director of emergency management for the Town of Banff.
“The dog park is one of those facilities we can’t really control as much as we would like to … the social distancing piece is difficult to maintain with an off-leash dog park, as interactions between pets and owners may inadvertently bring individuals within the two-metre distance restriction.”
Adamo said maximum gatherings of 15 visitors at a time also cannot be easily enforced.
“We look at what other jurisdictions are doing, not only in Alberta but across the country, and many jurisdictions have already implemented these types of restrictions as well,” he said, noting Ontario made the same decision earlier this week.
In neighbouring Canmore, the five dog parks remain open at this time.
Town of Canmore spokesperson Robyn Dinnadge said the municipality recognizes its dog parks provide an important service to dog owners.
She said the Town trusts residents will continue to use them responsibly and abide by the rules of the dog park, as well as the physical distancing protocols required Alberta Health Services.
“We have not received any reports of residents abusing the rules, and we will continue to monitor the situation and change it if necessary,” said Dinnadge.
With the closure of the Banff dog park, the municipality reminds residents of the importance of keeping dogs on-leash at all times in Banff National Park, including all areas of the townsite, for the safety of wildlife, people and their pets.
It is illegal to have dogs off-leash.
“It is a concern, especially with the national park and we want to make sure our dog owners are being responsible in taking their dogs out into out community and having them on leash,” said Adamo.
“We’re seeing more wildlife in our community because of less visitors … we’re seeing more ungulates like deer and elk in the community because of less people in and around so they’re feeling like they can roam around a little easier.”
The Town plans to roll out an education campaign on the importance of keeping dogs on leash.
“We’re always going to lead with education,” said Adamo.
“We’re hoping dog owners do the right thing so that we don’t have to enforce.”
Meanwhile, plans to relocate the current dog park in Banff directly north of the existing site to allow for the construction of the Roam transit storage facility are still going ahead this year, but the new park would be closed until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
The temporary dog park that was to be built in the interim has been scrapped because of the uncertainty around the pandemic.
“This was also something that we discussed at length,” said Adamo.
“But given the the uncertainty around new restrictions coming down the pipe on a fairly regular basis from the health authority, we don’t want to put up a temporary dog park when it could very easily be restricted to access in the coming days or weeks.”
A second off-leash dog park will be built at Banff’s recreation grounds later this year for 2021.
The locations of Canmore’s dog parks can be found at canmore.ca/residents/off-leash-dog-parks.
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