In September, 2006, the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation announced the formation of an all-volunteer task force, made up of citizens with proven expertise in specific areas of stakeholder interest and concern.
Members were charged with the task of developing a strategy that would be a balanced compromise respecting and accommodating all sides of the issue, and all legitimate uses for the public lands.
Through 2006 and 2007, I sat as one of the six members of that task force. I must confess to being something of a Pollyanna going into the process, I genuinely thought we would be crafting policies that would make things better for everyone - I had no idea the extent to which some Vancouverites had an intense dislike for dogs and their owners, to the extent that they wanted a complete moratorium on off leash areas.
The task force ended rather acromoniously and the media branded it a failure, although I am happy to say that many of the recommendations we suggested then, have been adopted into official policy today.
This blog will unpack some of the work we did and explore some options for improving the opportunities for dog owners and non dog owners alike to enjoy and share Vancouver's Park System.
Our 2007 report – the findings of the Task Force and the recommendations and action plans suggested by a majority of its members (with the help and input from literally hundreds of concerned and caring Vancouverites) – can be dowloaded and read here.
Here's what I wrote in my application to join the task force, back in 2006:
My name is Pete Fry. I have lived in Vancouver my entire life, I am
actively involved in my community, I'm a home owner, taxpayer, dog owner and park user.
I have enjoyed the company and therapeutic benefits of dogs since I was
a child. I do occasional volunteer work with the City of Vancouver
Animal Shelter and own a shelter rescue dog, that I exercise regularly
in Strathcona Park. As I am active and approachable in both my
neighbourhood and the dog community, I have had the opportunity to
glean a great deal of insight into the divergent views on urban dogs;
from dog owners to park workers to street people to sports players to
parents to new Canadians.
I have more than a passing interest and insight into urban development and sustainability.
I am well aware of the pressure on our urban parks, with a dwindling
supply of land and growing population of both humans and dogs vying for
a finite amount of green space. Like many urbanites, I do not own a car
- and in that context appreciate the need for accessible amenities for
all citizens to enjoy - be it for sports, play, dogs or just enjoying
the fresh air and flowers.
Over the years, and in conversation with other dog owners and park
users, I have developed some of my own ideas and concepts towards
mitigating some of the expressed concerns, and mollifying some of the
escalating tension over our parks. This task force would seem to be the
perfect forum to present some of these initiatives, which include:
- specifically designed, designated and appropriately landscaped "dog
- specific collection and re-use of dog waste in an environmentally
- public education about dogs and the basics of their behaviour, with
specifically targeted programs for new Canadians, many of whom are not
familiar with urban dogs as pets.
- considering the specific needs of dogs in establishing off leash
areas, with regard to proximity to playgrounds, sports fields,
skateboard bowls, etc, and how more dog facilities might be established
with less space.
- developing a strategy that anticipates the growth in homeless
population with dogs, and recognizes the therapeutic benefits dogs
provide to marginalized people.
In my professional capacity, I am a 37 year old self-employed graphic
artist, and as such am used to committee work and consensus building,
for both public sector and corporate clientele, on a variety of
budgets. My work allows me to tailor my schedule as need be the case to
facilitate involvement in your committee.
I hope you consider me for involvement in your task force. In any
event, though, I would love to present some of my ideas in more detail.
If you would like more information about me or references, please don't
hesitate to contact me.
- license system where obedience gets discount (or non-obd pay more)
- dog toilets
- dog waste compost
- dog play facillites, adventure playground
- lockable, gated dog 'sub-parks'
- public dog education
- dogs in other parks during off-season