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Additional remediation needed before Banff industrial compound dog park can reopen

“Administration has been advised that some type of remediation will need to occur to address the ongoing debris issue."
20210119 Banff Dog Park 0014
A sign at the Banff off-leash dog park cautions pet owners about uncovered glass and metal being uncovered. RMO FILE PHOTO

BANFF – It looks like every dog may eventually have its day again at the off-leash park in Banff’s industrial compound – but not before more remediation work is undertaken.

The Town of Banff closed the 1.5-acre off-leash dog park at Hawk Avenue mid-June because glass, nails and other hazardous objects continued to surface at the site, part of which was a former dumping ground of Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1960s.

“Unfortunately, the hazardous debris continues to surface, contrary to expectations that through a few years of freeze/thaw cycles and removals it would be remediated,” said Amanda Arbuckle, manager of recreation for the Town of Banff.

“This is most likely due to the high level of use the park has and the use patterns – dogs digging.”

Town administration is presenting council with potential options to solve the problem on Monday afternoon, Sept. 11.

While the last ditch option involves engaging with Parks Canada to identify an alternative site for a dog park, the top two options consider doing shovel tests to see if the contamination is isolated or more widespread.

Since the closure of the dog park, Arbuckle said administration has been working with area landscape professionals and environmental engineering and monitoring specialists on potential remediation options.

“Administration has been advised that some type of remediation will need to occur to address the ongoing debris issue,” she said.

“If the site intends to continue to be used as a dog park, a shovel testing exercise of the entire site is a minimum requirement.”

The outcome of that shovel test could recommend a less invasive solution such as a shallow excavation throughout the site, at a cost of up to $80,000, or a more costly solution such as capping, which would be brought back to service review for council consideration.

“However, until a shovel testing exercise is undertaken, the appropriate solution cannot be recommended,” said Arbuckle.

The Town sought legal advice before closing the dog park in mid-June and was advised the municipality needs to take reasonable steps to investigate and respond to the issue if it wants to keep the facility open “as it has knowledge of potential harm to users of the facility.”

“Based on recommendations and debris findings to date, the Town cannot reopen the dog park until further remediation has been undertaken,” said Arbuckle.

The Hawk Avenue dog park was relocated in 2020 to accommodate the new Roam Transit building.

During early stages of the project, a small, isolated waste hole containing cans, bottles, hose and cutlery was found from human activity dating back to the 1960s. It was excavated by hand by a team of archaeologists with oversight from the Town of Banff and Parks Canada.

In addition, a third-party environmental site assessment was completed to see if there were any other similar hazards but none were found. A third-party archaeological survey was also completed, including 10 test pits around the exterior of the site, which again uncovered nothing.

Arbuckle said approximately 100 more holes were excavated to a depth of four feet to support the fence posts along the perimeter of the site during construction of the dog park.

“No waste or garbage or hazardous materials were encountered,” she said.

“Because no materials were found during these assessments, the dog park in its new location on Hawk Avenue was opened in June of 2020.”

In the Town of Banff, there are currently 525 licensed dogs. This does not account for visitors who are travelling with their with dogs and staying in hotels or surrounding campgrounds.

The Hawk Avenue dog park averages 48 visits per day and the recreation grounds averages approximately 37.

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