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Town of Banff investigating glass, hazardous items unearthed at off-leash dog park

“It’s not every day that I discover glass or debris, however it is often enough that those of us that use the dog park on a regular basis are being very cautious because the potential is there for some very serious injury.”

BANFF – Dog owners are howling in protest as glass, metal and other hazardous objects continue to be unearthed at Banff’s off-leash dog park, putting their dogs at risk of injury.

The off-leash dog park in the industrial compound was built on the site of a former refuse pit, where residents continually find glass, rusty metal, old car parts and other items potentially dangerous to their dogs.

Longtime resident Kathy McNeil said she and four other dog owners collected handfuls of broken glass at the dog park on Sept. 2, prompting a call for the Town of Banff to come up with a longterm solution to the ongoing problem.

“It’s not every day that I discover glass or debris, however, it is often enough that those of us that use the dog park on a regular basis are being very cautious because the potential is there for some very serious injury,” she said.

“Dogs are digging, which they tend to do, and could cut their paws, or they go grab a stick and get glass in their mouth as well, and that could also cause injury.”

The 1.5-acre off-leash dog park, located on Hawk Avenue, was relocated directly north of the previous site last year to make way for construction of the Roam Transit garage.

Officials with the Town of Banff say staff have been doing daily inspections and signs have been placed warning people of sharp or hazardous objects that keep surfacing.

“Some days they spend extra time reviewing different areas,” said Jason Darrah, the communications director for the Town of Banff.

The dog park location at one point in the past contained an informal refuse pit in a single location on the site, which was remediated and tested for soil contamination before opening as a dog park last year.

The area was also home to Parks Canada buildings and a storage area in past decades, including cabins from the 1970s and earlier, verified by archival air photos and an archeological investigation completed in spring 2019.

Following the most recent complaint, Darrah said a contractor will be brought in to do a shallow excavation for a more detailed inspection, perhaps as early as next week, and determine some options moving forward.

“We’re bringing in the contractor again, for probably two days, so we’ll have to close the park again while they’re doing the remediation work because we can’t have people and their dogs in there when there are vehicles and other equipment,” he said.

“At this point, it’s really hard to tell what the extent of the problem is of the former refuse site. We will work with a consultant in the next two weeks to determine what the options are.”

The Town of Banff has also installed a bin at the site for residents to discard any hazardous items they find.

Darrah said the Town forwards anything put in that pail to Parks Canada, so items can be reviewed for historical value.

“So far, none of the things we’ve recovered have historical value – no artefacts,” he said.

McNeil said the most interesting item she has found was a taillight from an old car.

“On occasion, we have found entire whole bottles, beer bottles, glass bottles, but for most part they’re broken,” she said.

“Sometimes it’s just tiny little shards, sometimes it’s the entire bottom of a glass jar or beer bottle.”

McNeil said the ongoing situation is getting frustrating.

She said she met with Town of Banff staff in February after she sent pictures of the garbage to the mayor and town councillors.

She said the municipality did send a work crew out immediately for two days, who painted tree stumps that people were tripping over and did some raking to pick up garbage, but the problem continues.

“We have contacted the Town of Banff several times about getting the area cleaned up and they have come in a few times, but this is what happens when a dog park gets built on an old dump site,” she said.

“As the dog park is the only place we can let our dogs run off-leash, it is disconcerting that we find broken glass, rusty metal, and plastic garbage.”

McNeil said there was one occasion she noticed her yellow labrador cross, Gigi, had a small cut on her paws.

But she said she can’t definitively say it happened at the off-leash dog park because she had also been walking her dog elsewhere later that day.

“There are stories of this happening though,” she said.

Meanwhile, the long-awaited second dog park for the townsite is scheduled to open at the Banff recreation grounds the week of Sept. 20, though some areas may be roped off initially as the sod grows.