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City considers $200K for off-leash dog park improvements

City administration is requesting the use of up to $200,000 to make some safety and signage improvements in multiple off-leash dog parks.

City administration is asking for up to $200,000 to make safety and signage improvements in multiple off-leash dog parks before the end of the year. 

City staff want to install fencing around Dodger Dog Park near Servus Place and improve signage throughout some of St. Albert's 29 off-leash areas, said recreation and parks interim director Daniele Podlubny during the March 14 standing committee of the whole meeting, 

“These projects focus on increasing public and dog safety and improving communication related to dog owner responsibilities and use of off-leash areas,” Podlubny wrote in a council backgrounder. 

“Since opening in 2014, administration has received consistent feedback from dog owners related to challenges in navigating around (Dodger Dog Park), as water levels change to meet stormwater storage needs, and concerns with the lack of barrier between the park and bordering streets.”

Dodger Dog Park also serves as a dry stormwater management facility, meaning it is designed to manage excess water from heavy rains and melting snow. 

Along with a permanent fence, Podlubny said, the Dodger Dog Park improvement project also involves adding garbage cans and seating, to align the park's amenities with Lacombe Lake Dog Park. 

Council heard administration is also looking to improve and standardize off-leash area signage in high-priority areas such as Willoughby Park. 

“The value of good signage was highlighted in 2022 through public engagement related to an off-leash area designation change request for Willoughby Park,” Podlubny wrote in the backgrounder. “Both dog owners and non-dog owners indicated that it is not always clear which areas are on or off-leash and what the off-leash and on on leash responsibilities are for trails, parks, and shared-use spaces.”

“This prompted administration to undertake an audit of existing off-leash area signage across St. Albert and to develop guidelines for sign messaging and placement, focusing on off-leash areas, and bylaw responsibilities.”

Administration is looking for council's approval to use the dog licence reserve to fund the work. This reserve is a collection of fees paid by residents for annual dog licences, and Podlubny's backgrounder says council-set policy requires the reserve to be used specifically for the necessary maintenance or upgrades in city dog parks. The dog licence reserve has a current balance of $805,641.

Money well spent

Coun. Wes Brodhead told the Gazette he thinks installing a fence around Dodger Dog Park is a necessary improvement.

“The fence, to me, keeps people contained and dogs contained, so it's a good thing,” Brodhead said. 

“It's an improvement from my perspective.”

Likewise, Coun. Mike Killick said he has heard from many residents about the need to improve signage around off-leash areas in St. Albert, and he hopes the sign standardization will make a difference. 

“Additional signage (at Willoughby Park) will be very helpful,” he said, adding confused dog owners and non-dog owners alike have told him about their experience at the Woodlands park. 

“Hopefully, that will resolve some of the concerns and make that park more enjoyable for all residents.”

Administration's funding request was approved unanimously during the March 14 standing committee of the whole meeting, and council will now need to approve it in an upcoming meeting before the projects can begin.

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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