North Cowichan wants to hear from the public on the possibility of offering more off-leash dog opportunities in the municipality.
North Cowichan currently has several parks in which dogs do not need to be on a leash, in addition to certain trails and the municipal forest reserve, including Chemainus Lake Park, Herd Road Park, the Somenos Dog Park and five others.
But a staff report indicates that the demand for more off-leash area on public lands is increasing.
The latest request is that Cook Street Park become a dog off-leash area on a seasonal basis from Oct. 1 to June 15 each year.
Ernie Mansueti, North Cowichan’s director of parks, forestry and recreation, said citizens value the opportunity to take their dogs to parks as it fosters healthy activity and social well-being for both dogs and dog owners.
“Indeed, dog owners are some of the municipality’s most frequent park and forestry users.,” he said.
“Visits during off-peak hours provide additional ‘eyes on the park’ to deter crime, and can reduce unsanctioned off-leash activity in more sensitive sites.”
However, Mansueti said increased use results in greater competition for space and activities in the municipality’s parks, public spaces and forestry areas.
“It also can create issues with dog waste, noise, and conflicts with other park uses which need to be mitigated at off-leash areas,” he said.
“Planning is critical to ensure that the benefits of new off-leash areas outweigh the drawbacks.”
Mansueti said that with the request to have Cook Street Park become an off-leash dog area seasonally, it may be worthwhile to review all municipal public accesses to the ocean and invite the public to provide input on the topic of using them for off-leash areas on a seasonal basis.
Public ocean accesses in North Cowichan include Crofton Beach, Cook Street Park, Malcolm, Vista Grande, Daniel, Pender, Spring Street, Peter’s Lane, Redcap, Imadene Lane and Bird’s Eye Cove Lane.
Council agreed to Mansueti’s recommendation at its meeting on May 2.
Mansueti said the public consultation process will begin sometime after the amalgamation referendum on June 23.
He said the municipality will mainly be using the PlaceSpeak communications platform for public comments, but people can always email or write North Cowichan to provide their comments when the public input period begins.