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Volker Park no longer for the dogs

Marcel Lafond, a neighbourhood resident, helps dismantle the Volker Park off-leash dog area on Thursday. - Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS
Marcel Lafond, a neighbourhood resident, helps dismantle the Volker Park off-leash dog area on Thursday.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS

Issues and complaints over the Volker Park off-leash dog area on 123rd Avenue dragged on for months. But it took only minutes to remove the wire mesh from the park Thursday in an event titled “Mending Fences.”

With just a few volunteers, a backhoe and a District of Maple Ridge work crew, the fence was taken down and the poles pulled out in about an hour and 15 minutes.

Rebecca Lee, a dog owner, approached parks and leisure services with the event idea as a way of bringing both sides together following the commission’s April decision to close the park.

But she didn’t expect many dog owners who used the park to show up.

“They don’t want to come out because they’re not in support of the dog park coming down. They don’t see the purpose in coming out.”

Lee, though, wanted to help with the removal as a way of moving on and recognizing that a decision had been made.

“There’s nothing else to be done here,” she said.

The off-leash area, when it was opened about four years ago, wasn’t managed properly and mistakes were made, she said. She questioned allowing the park to stay open from dawn until dusk.

Lee, who started the Volker Park Refugee Facebook page, suggested that, in the future, community committees monitor off-leash areas and report to parks and leisure services so issues can be dealt with.

And more consulting should be done as the department considers three alternative sites for a new off-leash area. Westview Park, Upper Maple Ridge Park and Tolmie Park are all being considered as replacement sites.

“We have to make sure that the neighbourhood is really heavily consulted.”

She particularly likes Upper Maple Ridge park because it has lots of space and is close to the growing Silver Valley suburb.

“I think, in the end, if we lose one dog park and we gain three, then that’s kind of awesome, from my part.”

Lee has been bringing her two dogs – Brutus, a chihuahua-pug, and Mason, a German shepherd-Rhodesian ridgeback – to Volker Park for three years.

“I’ve loved every second of it.”

However, three weeks ago Brutus was poisoned after eating some dog kibble left just outside the fence. He got sick and she took him to a vet office, where he was induced to vomit. He is still recovering.

She didn’t report that to the RCMP.

“Fear,” she said. “Everybody knows who I am. I don’t want my dogs to be targeted.”

But she still decided to organize Thursday’s event.

“It’s not doing anything for any of us to sit around and complain,” Lee added. “I feel like I have to keep doing something positive.”

Marcel Lafond, a long-time area resident, helped dismantle the Volker fence and disagreed with calling those who opposed the park as bullies.

“This is a bad location.”

People were in the park from six in the morning to 10 o’clock at night. “We couldn’t sleep. We couldn’t use our back yard. The noise was just crazy.”

It wasn’t just dogs barking, he said, but the vehicles coming and going.

Lafond pointed out that neighbours who wanted the dog park removed followed the right steps. They contacted Mayor Ernie Daykin, collected a petition and presented it to the parks and leisure services commission board, which made the decision to close it.

“It’s not a good location and that’s what the commission came to understand.”

Consultation over the next possible sites will be more intensive, said Fred Armstrong, communications manager for the District of Maple Ridge.

“All three of these sites will need to have community consultation to make sure we don’t have issues going forward.”

He said staff want to get into each neighbourhood and meet people to get a good idea of the concerns about having an off-leash dog park. The department doesn’t want to rush the process and wants to do it properly, but also to do so in an expeditious manner.

 

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