One of the ideas I brought forward to the ill fated Dog Strategy Task Force was that at a minimum, all parks (of a prescribed size or larger) - regardless of leash or off-leash status should provide a “dog patch”. An area specifically set aside for dogs where they can ‘do their business’ and appropriate facilities and amenities are provided: including waste bins, bags, dispensers and specialized “gazebo” covered signs. These areas would be appropriately landscaped with hardy shrubs and grasses and/or alternate surface like bark mulch and Zeolite.
The idea is based on the principle that recreating with one’s dog is a legitimate park activity - and responsible ownership can provide net societal benefits; from physical and mental health to crime prevention and community safety.
Fundamental to this concept is changing the relationship between dog owners and the rest of the city from an adversarial one to one of collaboration and stewardship. This opportunity is thwarted by the City's current approach, which puts enforcement and enclosure ahead of engagement and education.
These "dog patches" would alleviate stresses on existing parks, and outside of off-season provide a dedicated alternative to shared/flex park use. They would be well situated throughout the city, ideally in every park where space allows. This diagram touches on some of the larger issues discussed in our Task Force report Dogs in the Urban Environment (for background on the 2008 report and Dog Strategy Task Force, please read previous post Dog Strategy Task Force - Was it all just a bad dream?).
Highlights of the dog patch pictured above include:
- A clearly marked perimeter, delineated by fencing, shrubbery, etc.
- Trees as shade, privacy, noise barrier, and border
- Park furniture (and/or dog "playground" equipment)
- Owners must pick-up and have leash at ready
- Hardy grass
- Clearly marked entrance signage to "dog patch" (note dog entering on leash)
- Covered "gazebo" sign - for engaging dog-owning community
- Clearly marked rules for park, and general responsibilities/best practices
- Bulletin Board for dog community (public notices, clean-up, etc)
- Sponsored bag dispenser, with sponsored biodegradable bags
- Park Board/City/Animal Control educational pamphlets, designed to encourage responsible ownership, park stewardship, etc
- Dedicated dog waste disposal (for composting or methane harvest)
- Watersource for drinking, cleanup
- Alternate surfacing for ease of pick-up (ie. bark mulch, lava rock, crushed gravel, zeolite, etc)