A future off-leash dog park in Harrison Hot Springs was the subject of spirited debate as part of a three-hour council meeting on Monday, Feb. 22.
Council voted to receive a report from staff, outlining a potential plan for the dog park to be located at Firehall Park; they also directed staff to create a second report comparing costs of the Firehall Park to a space on McComb Drive adjcacent to Chestnut Avenue. The dog park plans in the report created by village staff on Feb. 16 closely mirrors the results of the survey.
During the Committee of the Whole meeting late last May, Council directed staff to consult with the public to gauge support for an off-leash dog park in the village. This resulted in the creation of a five-minute survey that was put online and on physical paper.
Last October, councillors reviewed the final results of the off-leash dog park survey, conducted online and via hard copies available at the village office between July 27 and Aug. 31.
While reactions to the survey’s structure were mixed, 87 per cent of 221 responses (207 online and 14 paper copies) expressed support for an off-leash dog park. A majority of residents supported spending between $50,00 and $75,000 to construct the dog park and between $5,000 and $10,000 for maintenance.
In the survey, there were six pre-determined prospective locations for the off-leash dog park. Of those surveyed, 40 per cent chose the Firehall Park site. The McComb Drive location was the runner-up with 20 per cent of the votes.
A few residents and one councillor voiced their concerns about the prospective park during the Monday meeting.
Coun. Ray Hooper was worried children might reach their hands through the gaps in the proposed chain link fence and potentially get hurt or bitten.
Judy Douglas said she wasn’t aware the survey findings from the public would be “binding” and was concerned about possible outsiders contaminating the results. The village reported 95 per cent of respondents lived in Harrison Hot Springs.
Stan Evans, who owns a Pomeranian, said current parks and yards (for those who own or rent land) should suffice, and an off-leash dog park was not necessary. He was especially apprehensive about big dogs attacking smaller dogs and children, citing similar incidents in Surrey and Vancouver off-leash dog parks.
During the meeting, Evans also said he wanted the dog park “abolished” immediately. He added he was perturbed that outrage based on hypothetical protected wildlife/off-leash dog confrontations could ripple across the Lower Mainland and draw animal rights protesters from as far away as Vancouver to Harrison to object to the park.
Rather than committing to permanent park space, John Allen suggested temporarily using the village’s 3,000 feet of snow fence normally reserved for the beach during the winter. Mayor Leo Facio said the fencing was too flexible to contain a larger dog should it attempt to break through the barrier.
Other resident concerns included tree removal, which is a more common concern now than ever given the effects of climate change.
The next regular council meeting is scheduled for March 7 at 7 p.m. at Memorial Hall. Zoom attendance is also available via Zoom with links to the meeting at harrisonhotsprings.ca.