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Fighting flares over off-leash park in Maple Ridge

Nancy Patrick holds up the stone that went through her front window. - Colleen Flanagan/The News
Nancy Patrick holds up the stone that went through her front window.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/The News

The front window of a house owned by a woman who petitioned to keep open the controversial off-leash dog area in Volker Park was first smashed with a rock, then a piece of metal.

“Now, it’s gotten to this, it’s insane,” said Nancy Patrick.

Sometime Sunday morning, someone threw a rock through her front window.

Then around 9 a.m. Monday, someone used to slingshot to fire a piece of metal through the same window.

“You can’t even voice your opinion without rocks being thrown at your house, because I want a dog park?”

Nancy’s husband Rob said he saw someone hanging out the window of a car holding a slingshot, then heard his front window smash.

He’s called Ridge Meadows RCMP, but they haven’t shown up yet.

At first, Nancy Patrick thought the broken window was just a random act by kids. But after the second break, she began to think she’s being targeted.

Patrick presented a 1,200-name petition to Maple Ridge council earlier this month, asking that the park be kept open after the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows Parks and Leisure Services Commission decided April 10 to close it in June because of complaints, mostly about noise.

Patrick wasn’t told about the April meeting, and said dog owners weren’t given a chance to address complaints about the park from nearby residents before the decision to close it was made.

“I’m busy. I work full-time. I have two small children.”

Usually there are only five dogs at a time using the park, though sometimes that number can grow to 10 or 15, she said.

“The kids [from Laity View elementary, next door] are noisier than the dogs. Come and have a fair evaluation,” of the park, she said to the parks and leisure services department.

Nancy owns a whippet-pit bull cross named Etta, who needs lots of exercise. But Nancy has to do so within a fenced area because she’s concerned her dog would just run away.

Parks and recreation manager Kelly Swift said the off-leash areas have proven to be popular and many cities are struggling to find solutions that please everyone.

The off-leash section of the park – one of seven in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows – has been open for about four years and cost $5,000, to install the fence. A water fountain for the playground and a tap for the park were installed for $10,000.

Park users were to address council at its meeting Tuesday night.

But the Volker Park area was becoming too much of a flash point between those who use it and those who complained about it.

A year ago, someone spread glass on the ground in the off-leash area and a dog may have been poisoned there. And earlier this year, dog owner Gord Westrand found 40 tacks strewn on the ground.

Park users spoke to the recreation commission at its May meeting, asking why they’ve never had a chance to resolve issues.

But no one on the commission introduced a motion to review the decision, so it still stands, said Swift.

Staff will present a report outlining an alternative sites for an off-leash area at the commission’s June 12 meeting.

“From a department perspective, … what we’re looking for is adding more dog parks to our inventory.”

“They’ve been really well received in most of the neighbourhoods there,” said Swift.

“Times are a changing and we’re working to keep up.”

Other off-leash dog areas in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows:

• Albion Fairgrounds;

• Hoffman Park;

• Jerry Sulina Park;

• North Bonson Park;

• leash optional dike trail from the Pitt River Bridge to Pitt Meadows Marina (new);

• leash option dike trail from the north end of Harris Road in Pitt Meadows, which offers both north and south walking trails (new).

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