Maple Ridge residents fight dog park closure

Noise is the primary problem at Volker off-leash area, say District of Maple Ridge staff

Gordon Westrand

Gordon Westrand

Spud isn’t a big dog, but he still likes to run around and get some exercise and sniff out some of his peers in a safe environment.

As of June 10, though, when the off-leash area in Volker Park closes and the fence is removed, Spud, a cairn terrier, will be looking for a new playground.

“I’m upset with fact it’s being closed,” said Gordon Westrand, Spud’s owner. “I just don’t think the public is being told why it’s being done.”

The Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows Parks and Leisure Services Commission made the decision at its April 10 meeting after hearing from residents who live nearby.

Parks and facilities director David Boag said the residents had a compelling case.

“The closure, I would say, is largely about the noise,” although there were also complaints about dust and people walking dogs outside the fence.

People were upset about being woken early on Sunday mornings or from dogs barking after hours. Video clips backed up the residents’ concerns.

“I would say the biggest part is the noise throughout the day for the people who live in such close proximity to the park,” Boag said.

The off-leash section of the park has been open for about four years and cost about $5,000 to install the fence.

A water fountain for the playground and a tap for the park was installed for $10,000.

Last July, dog walkers found broken auto glass in the off-leash area.

And a month ago, Westrand and his wife found about 40 tacks strewn on the ground.

But noise, not vandalism, was the deciding factor, Boag said.

“The commission just felt it was just too great a burden to put on folks in that neighbourhood.”

The commission rejected Boag’s suggestion for more time to make a decision and for reduced opening hours for the dog park.

Boag also suggested that a public process take place before a final decision.

“We discussed a process that evening … but some people just felt strongly that it’s too close to neighbours.”

Westrand, a former school board chairman in Coquitlam, can accept a decision made after discussion by both sides. But there’s been no opportunity for input from dog owners.

“They’ve eliminated that. They’ve taken away our right to question the validity of their argument. I just think it’s totally undemocratic,” he said.

“I found when government gets into trouble, at any level, they get in trouble by making very quick decision without a lot of input from the public.”

Westrand said whenever he goes by other parks, they’re usually empty.

“This is a park that’s well used,” he added. “Kids yelling, dogs barking, isn’t that what parks are supposed to be for?”

There’s more noise from the school than the dogs, he pointed out.

“Are we going to close down a school?”

Nancy Patrick, a dog owner, is circulating a petition to keep the park open and will present it at a future council meeting.

She says dog owners were never given a chance to address any issues and bylaw officers never visited. There was no option to reduce hours or noise.

“It seems very unfair.”

The Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows Parks and Leisure Services Commission will hear suggestions about alternative sites on May 15.

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).