Tina Varno and her dog Lacey take a stroll through Westview Park on Monday. The Maple Ridge resident supports more off-leash parks in the city.

Tina Varno and her dog Lacey take a stroll through Westview Park on Monday. The Maple Ridge resident supports more off-leash parks in the city.

Howls over new Westview dog park

City has plans for three more off-leash areas in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

The city has heard from neighbours and is planning an off-leash dog area in Westview Park.

But it will do so over the howls of protest from some of the neighbours nearby who don’t want the park.

Juliana Plesner collected 49 signatures from people opposed to the park when she did a door-to-door survey in the area two months ago. Only 15 told her they favoured the park.

She wanted to do more, but threats discouraged her from continuing. But she did survey five roads in the immediate area.

Plesner says that an online survey, done by the city last September and showing support for the park, was flawed.

The survey was taken during a teacher’s strike and out of the 46 who responded and said yes, only 14 were residents of her neighbourhood, those who lived within five kilometres of the park. The remaining 32 lived more than five kilometres away, she said.

“Hardly a fair representation of the effects of a dog park in a busy neighbourhood,” she said.

“The question I heard most often, and which I ask now – why is the city not asking us if we want a park in our neighbourhood?

Plesner said a survey that only a small handful are aware of, is not enough to justify due diligence on the part of the parties involved.

Tina Varno, though, is looking forward to the park.

“That’s fantastic.”

It will allow her to unleash her little dog Lacey so she can run around a bit. When she lets her dog off leash now in a park, people yell her and tell her it’s for walking.

“It will be so much more convenient.”

She lives nearby on 216th Street and says she’ll be able to get there by walking.

Westview is one of three sites for off-leash areas OK’d by the parks and recreation commission earlier this year, after Volker Park was closed last year because of complaints from nearby residents. Tolmie and Upper Maple Ridge parks will also have off-leash areas.

City parks manager Geoff Mallory said an open house takes place April 28 at Westview Park at 5 p.m., so staff can hear residents’ views about exactly where the fencing should be located or operating hours.

He said during the September trial period there was lots of support for the off-leash area shown in online responses. Letters were also sent to residents. There’s enough room in the park for mountain biking and dogs, he added.

According to a staff report from Jan. 8, letters were mailed out to residents within a one-block radius of the park, telling them of the week-long trial period in September. Areas were fenced off, simulating a real dog park, so people had an idea of what it would be like. Online surveys were then done for that month.

A total of 50 online surveys were filled out for Westview, with 16 of the 21 (76 per cent) respondents who lived within half a kilometre supporting an off-leash area.

And 18 of 22 (82 per cent) respondents who lived within five kilometres of the park favoured an off-leash area.

The intent is that the park serve local residents, said Mallory.

“We don’t expect it to be a drive-to destination.”

Once the department hears from residents, it will start construction sometime in May using fencing and posts left over from the off-leash area in Volker Park. Staff will monitor each location for six months afterwards and address any issues that develop.

“If there are issues with them, we want to deal with them and make sure it’s a success for everybody,” Mallory said.

Cost to install each park is less than $10,000.