Lacombe Lakers miffed about dog park fence

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Some Lacombe Lake residents want the city to spruce up the new fence in their off-leash dog park so it doesn’t become an eyesore.

A small group of residents met with city officials at the Lacombe Lake Park gazebo Wednesday to raise concerns about the fence recently installed around the local off-leash dog park.

Public feedback about the city’s new pet bylaw (passed in 2014) convinced city crews to put up fences at the park, said Daniele Podlubny, community recreation manager with the City of St. Albert. Councillors had heard many concerns about off-leash dogs disrupting the safety and enjoyment of other park users. A 2016 survey found that about 69 per cent of residents favoured a physical barrier, such as a fence or hedge, around the city’s off-leash parks.

Council voted 2-5 against a motion from then-mayor Nolan Crouse in September 2016 to stick with shrub/hedge barriers in dog parks (Crouse and Coun. Wes Brodhead in favour) and 6-1 in favour of installing a regular fence in the Lacombe Lake Park for about $65,000 (Crouse opposed). Council later voted to delay that fence until the city could ensure dogs could still get into the lake with it in place.

The fence, plus hedges along it, went up last month and restricts off-leash dogs to the west side of the park.

John Veres, who lives next to the park, said the fence has concentrated the park’s dogs along the back of his property and harmed his view of the lake.

“You look out our back patio and all you see is a four-foot black chain-link fence,” he said.

“It’s not very pleasant when you have the male dogs come up and they’re peeing on your fence.”

Veres said he and other residents were concerned that the dog park would not be maintained, and would become “an unkempt wasteland” of dead grass and affect property values.

“This is our retirement place. We’ve put a lot of money in this thing.”

While he acknowledged the safety issues that prompted the fence, Veres said it would be better to manage irresponsible dog owners through enforcement. If the park could not be moved, he said he hoped the city would create a vegetative buffer along its west side.

It’s unlikely that the fence or the park would be moved at this time, said Coun. Ken MacKay, who met with residents at the gazebo Wednesday. The park wouldn’t fit on the east side of the lake, and moving it could simply move the problems it caused. Adding more plants as a buffer definitely seemed possible.

MacKay said he assured residents that the park would be regularly maintained and promised to keep an open dialogue with them on this issue. The city would also likely put in a vegetative swale on the north end of the park to manage drainage issues.

The dog park is mowed every 10 days and swept for dog poop at least twice a year to keep it in good condition, Podlubny said. While dog parks can get worn down, this one was big enough that it shouldn’t get dead patches.

City crews will work to add more plants to the park as well as more signs to encourage proper stewardship of it, Podlubny said. The city will also launch a survey early next year on fences in dog parks.

Questions on the park should go to rpquestions@stalbert.ca.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.