Banff should have an off-leash dog park by the end of July – but it will be slightly smaller than originally planned in order to provide a buffer zone to protect a nearby critical wildlife corridor.
Parks Canada gave its official blessing to the project on May 18, indicating they preferred the dog park be located on the southwest portion of a vacant site in the industrial compound as it is adjacent to existing development.
In addition, the dog park will now be 1.5 acres instead of two acres after an environmental study recommended a buffer zone to reduce potential disruption to wildlife such as bears and elk using a corridor to the northeast.
“This is good news – a dog park this July,” said Mayor Karen Sorensen. “I want to thank Parks for really being open to this.”
Town council approved $30,000 for the development of an off-leash dog park on Hawk Avenue as part of 2012 budget deliberations last December, and ended up going with a two-acre park on the south-east portion of the parcel.
In March, Parks Canada requested additional information as part of the environmental assessment process, specifically about the affects of an off-leash dog park on wildlife and the nearby travel corridor.
Highwood Environmental Management, which carried out the extra study, recommended an increased setback from the wildlife corridor, and construction of a 2.4-metre-high fence, similar to fencing along the Trans-Canada Highway.
They also recommended no use of the dog park during dawn and dusk periods, as these are critical times for wildlife movement, so the park will be closed between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. daily.
“Parks Canada’s concern all along has been about not creating a pinch point for wildlife movement,” said Chad Townsend, the Town of Banff’s environmental coordinator.
Townsend said in order to minimize tree clearing costs and disturbance, administration recommends the site be fenced and trees pruned at their base.
He said that essentially leaves the site as is – a mix of open spaces and thinned forest – but it’s possible users may request formalized paths and more tree clearing in 2013 after the park has been open for several months.
“We believe we can deliver this project on budget, with a mixed site of open spaces and thinned forest,” Townsend said. “We think we have a contractor who can start in three weeks.”
Had council gone with a two acre park instead of 1.5 acres on the south-west location, they would need to have found at least another $10,000 for more tree clearing and site work.
“Given the usability of the land, the number of trees that would have to come out, and the extra cost for the two acres, I will support the 1.5 acres instead of the two acres,” said Councillor Chip Olver.
Parks Canada did not get back to the Outlook with a comment by press time.