Committee fundraising to improve facility
Bo the border collie barks impatiently as he waits for his human companion, Derry McTaggart, to throw his frisbee at the city's first off-leash dog park on Second Avenue.
The frisbee flies through the sunny morning air, and three-year-old Bo streaks across the ground, jumping and catching the toy in mid-air.
McTaggart said she's been waiting for the park to open pretty much since she brought Bo home as a puppy.
“We were desperate to find a place for him to play, especially in the winter,” she said.
“We can usually find some trails or something that nobody's on in the summertime, but in the winter it's really tough. Because he's a high-energy dog, I walk him three hours a day - an hour in the morning, an hour in the afternoon and an hour at night.
"He's my retirement project. He likes being with other people and other dogs a lot, so this is going to be awesome.”
McTaggart was one of dozens of dog owners to take part in the park's grand opening Sept. 30. Dogs of all descriptions ran and played in the two fenced-in areas – one for large dogs and the other for small or older dogs.
The off-leash dog park is built on city-owned property which was formerly a gravel pit.
About $67,000 of the park's $123,000 cost came from Ward 11 Coun. Terry Kett's healthy community initiatives (HCI) fund. Another $5,000 came from Ward 8 Coun. Fabio Belli's HCI fund.
While HCI funds have been the focus of some controversy at city hall in recent months, Kett said the off-leash dog park is proof that these funds are needed. He said it's unlikely the city would have fully funded the project through its parks budget.
“This is the best example possible of healthy community initiatives funds being used to the advantage of the community,” Kett said.
He said it was expensive to remove the gravel and other debris from the site, but it was worth it because “the site's location is perfect for the city,” because it's close to both shopping and residential areas.
Minnow Lake Community Action Network (CAN) chair John Lindsay said his group has always dreamed of doing something useful with the property. The late Bob King came up with the idea of turning it into the city's first off-leash dog park.
King “sadly passed away a year ago, but I'm sure he's here in spirit to see his dream come true,” Lindsay said.
After deciding what they wanted to do with the land, the Minnow Lake CAN set up a dog park sub-committee, headed by Pierre Perreault.
“Our committee worked very hard over the last three years to get everybody here to build a dog park,” Perreault said. “Now, seeing everyone here this morning, playing and socializing their dogs, I'm just overjoyed with how it's going.”
Lindsay said the off-leash dog park is definitely needed. He said there's 50,000 licenced dogs in the city, and there's more dogs in the Minnow Lake area than any other part of the city.
“I sure other neighbourhoods throughout the city are going to think this is a good idea,” he said. “All you need is a fenced-in area, and you have an off-leash dog park area.”
Perreault said his group hopes to raise another $25,000 over the next five years to maintain and improve the dog park. They have plans to plant more trees, put in benches and even install a canine water fountain.
A walkathon held as part of the park's grand opening raised funds for the cause.
Dave Nurmi, who brought his English mastiff to play at the park, said he's impressed with the new facility.
“It's hard to exercise in a ball park or what have you when there's other activities going on,” he said. “Now we have a place to take him so he can play.”
Those interested in donating to the fund to improve the off-leash dog park are asked to visit www.dogsoffleash.ca.