A leash-free dog park in Woolwich is an idea whose time has not yet come.
Forwarded earlier this year by Coun. Mark Bauman, the suggestion was to create an informal space for dog owners by cutting a path through some township-owned land near the Health Valley Trail in St. Jacobs. The goal was to provide an outlet for the many dog owners walking their animals on the trail in violation of the bylaw that requires the dogs to be on a leash.
Bounded by bush, woods and a creek, the site would provide separation between dogs running free and other hikers using the trail system.
A staff report tabled Tuesday night at council’s committee-of-the-whole meeting, however, determined the area would require patrols by a township bylaw enforcement staff that is already overextended. For that reason, clerk Christine Broughton recommended shelving the idea, but perhaps revisiting it in another year.
Bauman countered the enforcement argument, saying people with their dogs off the leash would have a dedicated area, leaving a clear-cut case for ticketing of anyone found with an unrestrained dog elsewhere on the trail.
Planting trees in the park last weekend, Bauman spoke to about a dozen people there with dogs – only half had their dogs on a leash as required by law – and all agreed with the concept.
With no extra insurance liability risks and only a small cost – essentially mowing an extra swath of grass every month or so – the leash-free area would be a boon.
He, however, was the lone voice in support.
Coun. Murray Martin said enforcement staff have more pressing issues to deal with, calling the park an extra burden.
Mayor Bill Strauss, having talked to representatives of other municipalities, said a leash-free dog park would really require a fenced area of its own.
“I’m convinced we can’t have a leash-free park in an agricultural community.”
The proposal at council would bring more problems than benefits, he added.