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Ruff and tumble decision on Canmore dog parks

Canmore council approved two new off-leash dog parks in the community, but opposition by residents about their locations could result in a legal challenge to bring council to heel.
A map of the proposed off-leash dog parks in Canmore. Council voted 4-3 to approve the Palliser and Hubman locations at its Oct. 3 council meeting.
A map of the proposed off-leash dog parks in Canmore. Council voted 4-3 to approve the Palliser and Hubman locations at its Oct. 3 council meeting.

Canmore council approved two new off-leash dog parks in the community, but opposition by residents about their locations could result in a legal challenge to bring council to heel.

Elected officials voted on the location of proposed dog parks in Canmore on Tuesday (Oct. 3) night, with three locations originally considered and two recommended – one near Hubman Landing and another in Palliser – by administration.

Mayor John Borrowman, Councillors Ed Russell and Sean Krausert expressed concerns about the locations of the parks and their adjacency to residential property, as well as whether or not the parks would meet the stated objective of decreasing off-leash dog use of wildlife corridors.

The mayor said while he fully supports the vision of having more dog parks in residential neighbourhoods, the 2015 open spaces and trails master plan provides some planning direction that gave him pause.

“While I recognize this is not a binding piece of legislation, it is to me very clear that council two years ago established a minimum distance,” he said. “In hindsight, I think we should have not been that specific and recognize the real problem our community has finding locations for these purposes.”

In particular, Borrowman said, the proposed park at Palliser was far too close to homes of those living in the Blakiston building and, given master plan recommendations for setbacks, he could not approve the Hubman Landing location either.

“This decision is not being made as the result of the thinly veiled threat raised in this council chamber not too long ago,” he added.

Krausert said he does not believe off-leash parks in the two locations would result in dog owners changing their behaviour and reducing the number of people and dogs found in wildlife corridors.

“I think it is fundamentally flawed in that correlation,” he said. “I do not think approving more dog parks, especially small ones, will get people out of the corridor.”

Couns. Vi Sandford, Joanna McCallum and Rob Seeley spoke in favour of the dog park locations. Sandford said the municipality does not have a lot of land available for providing this type of use to address this type of problem.

“We do not have a lot of options,” she said. “We probably never will have options unless there is a new landowner that puts this kind of amenity in a new subdivision.”

McCallum pointed out that as a development authority, Canmore has approved higher density built forms in places like Palliser, where residents don't have a backyard for their dog and that means council should consider this kind of amenity in these types of locations.

“I think that if this even takes 12 dogs out of the corridor, it is worthwhile,” she added.

Coun. Esmé Comfort had the deciding vote – at first expressing a lack of support for the motion, then changing her mind due to the persuasive arguments of her fellow councillors.

“I am of two minds,” she said.

The planning document, in a section on open spaces in the future, recommends a 120 metre setback from residential properties. Sustainability coordinator and development planner Lori Rissling Wynn told council the setback was included in the section administration would look to when considering future development and none of the municipally owned sites considered would meet the suggested distance. In fact, she said, the off-leash park in Elk Run is less than 120 metres from residential development and in a mixed recreational use area.

“That section is meant to inform new and future development and an effort was made to look for Town-owned land,” she said. “The Town of Canmore has no large parcels of land to put off-leash dog parks in existing neighbourhoods.”

Rissling Wynn said the dog parks being considered were proposed as neighbourhood based amenities and were chosen because they were adjacent to an established wildlife corridor that is being used by dog owners illegally as an off-leash area.

The Hubman dog park was proposed at 1.06 acres, with fencing throughout the site. The Palliser park is 1.18 acres. The Spring Creek dog park was not recommended as funding was only available to complete two locations. Rissling Wynn said feedback on the parks was mixed – both in favour and those who are strongly opposed and acknowledged it is not an easy council decision.

“In some ways this is an imperfect solution to a complex problem,' she said.


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