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Dogs of war unleashed at Trout Lake

Dog owners fighting to preserve the off-leash area at John Hendry/Trout Lake as unrestricted canine territory have created a Facebook page, organized a public protest and taken to the media to get their message out.

Dog owners fighting to preserve the off-leash area at John Hendry/Trout Lake as unrestricted canine territory have created a Facebook page, organized a public protest and taken to the media to get their message out.

The comments section of several local newspapers and on the Dog Lovers of Trout Lake Facebook page are testament to how heated this debate has become with dog owners and other park users exchanging public barbs.

Trout Lake resident Jean Routhier said dog owners living near the park are upset because the large off-leash area was one of the main amenities that drew them to the area.

“I was aware of the consultation and attended two meetings but it wasn’t until the April [2014] meeting that I had a sense of the drastic reductions the park board is planning,” said Routhier. “When we moved here we bought our house because of the off-leash area. It’s like people with kids who consider catchment areas when they buy. We chose a place to enjoy dogs.”

As part of the proposed master plan for John Hendry Park, park board staff recommend reducing the size of the off-leash area from 29,000 to 6,000 square metres and relocating it from the north end to a fenced area on the west side. At 6,000 square metres, the enclosed dog off-leash area would be twice the size of any other dog run in the city.

A staff report says 72 per cent of 700 respondents want the off-leash area better delineated through the use of fences, natural dividers and improved signs. The report noted staff heard from residents also concerned because some sections of the lake loop trail run through the off-leash area, which make some park users uncomfortable about potential dog interactions. It’s estimated there are between 100,000 and 145,000 dogs living in a city with 36 off-leash areas.

In a press release, the Dog Lovers group argues the off-leash area at Trout Lake is the only one of its kind on the East Side and is so popular it’s become a destination park. The group says while its members agree better delineation and signs are a good idea, none of them were aware an 80 per cent reduction was part of the plan.

“We are all completely shocked,” said Routhier in the letter. “All they talked about was increased signage and natural barriers — nothing even remotely like this. If they go ahead with this plan it would drastically change the park — and not for the better…”

Former Trout Lake resident and dog owner Corrine Moore told the Courier despite the fact she and her German shepherd/pit bull cross Floyd recently moved to Aldergrove, they regularly visit the off-leash area at Trout Lake.

Moore said while more signs and enforcement might help, she’s not a fan of fencing.

“It’s important for everyone to have access to the entire park,” said Moore.

Vision Vancouver commissioner Niki Sharma said the dog owners should remember the master plan is at the consultation stage.

“The off-leash area is just part of a much larger master plan,” said Sharma. “But we’re collecting input as we move forward.”

Sharma said the public process has been ongoing for six months and many residents support the draft plan.

“But we still want people to give their opinions,” said Sharma.

sthomas@vancourier.com
twitter.com/sthomas10