Remember before COVID when the biggest issue in front of council was the removal or the retaining of two leash-free, fenced-in dog parks in the city? At the time, council asked staff to look at other sites that might serve as future dog parks outside of residential areas, and they have delivered a report that should come as no surprise to anyone. The best candidate? Eastview Park.
Back at February’s council meeting, council voted to direct staff to report back with options for the feasibility of a fenced-in dog park in non-residential areas. The request was made after some residents in the area of the Peter Misersky dog park, and the then-proposed park at Bristol Street, voiced concerns about noise, smell, and parking congestion. Although council’s intention with the original motion was to integrate dog parks into neighbourhoods to support walkability, the popularity of the parks seem to have made them destinations.
“Our once quiet street and park became a muddy, noise ridden nightmare,” wrote Toni Gilchrist, one of the people in favour of closing the Peter Misesky Park in February. “Our windows remained closed for the summer due to the constant barking, owners yelling at their dogs, clanging of gates, car exhaust and the smell of dog feces.”
In terms of looking at sites for dog parks in non-residential areas, staff identified 14 potential sites but but while they were all owned by public entitles, only four of them are owned by the City of Guelph.
“Owners of these properties include Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA), the Ministry of Transportation (MTO), Hydro One, and the University of Guelph,” the report said. “Staff have not consulted with the property owners as this was considered outside of the scope of Council’s ask. Significant staff time would be required to further evaluate all of these sites.
“Further evaluation would include facilitating conversations with the land owners, obtaining future plans for these lands, on-site analysis, policy analysis, including official plan and zoning analysis, identification of any other technical studies or requirements,and identification of the design requirements associated with existing facilities, such as hydro corridors,” the report added.
Staff considered the possible use of private land as outside the scope for this report because such properties could be used for future development, and the City would be required to pay market rate for the land. Also, these properties would probably require the installation of infrastructure like driveways and parking in addition to the cost of building the park.
So of the four sites that staff did focus on there was one at 606 Massey Road in the industrial west end of the city, and three different parcels on the Eastview Park property including a one-hectare site at the east of the property at Watson Parkway (site A), a one-hectare site near the intersection of Watson and Speedvale (site B), and the large 45 hectare Pollinator Park (site C) that makes up the majority of the property. While the first two parts of Eastview are zoned as open space, the Pollinator Park is zoned as a “Significant Natural Area.”
“Due to its locationin the NHS, in order to locate a dog park (or any park infrastructure) here, Council would need to direct staff to prepare an Official Plan Amendment,” said the report on site C in the Pollinator Park. “This amendment would be subject to the preparation of an Environmental Impact Study (EIS), demonstrating that there are no negative impacts to ecological functions, to the satisfaction of the City’s Planning staff.
“The preparation of an EIS does not guarantee achievement of no negative impacts to natural heritage features or their ecological functions,” the report added.
In using site A there are issues because this land has previously been identified as the potential site for the bike skills facility, while the selection of site B property will force people to walk down a long trail from the parking area to access the area, which, as the staff report added, has a “history of misuse and vandalism.” There are also some issues with drainage that may present an issue with using this area for a dog park.
Staff’s research seems to reinforce their previous thoughts on using the Eastview Park site for a leash-free dog park. In the original Committee of the Whole report from February, staff said that this area came with “site access concerns and high maintenance costs including issues with waste management access and winter maintenance. Significant grading and drainage concerns would have exceeded project timelines and budget to address.”
Eastview Park has also been the subject of over $6.1 million spent in planning and development, which leads to another factor brought up in this new staff report. The City is currently working on its Parks and Recreation Master Plan, which looks at all park needs including the future location of new dog parks.
For that reason, there’s currently no money in the capital budget to build a new dog park, which costs between $90,000 and $100,000. There would also need to be further planning and design consultations to be done before an direction to build on one of these sites can be added to the 10-year capital forecast.