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Banff to consider new dog park

BANFF – Local dog owners may be thrown a bone with a proposal to develop a new off-leash dog park on the south side of the Bow River.
Banff Dog Park
Banff council is considering developing a new dog park for the community as part of its 2019 budget service review.

BANFF – Local dog owners may be thrown a bone with a proposal to develop a new off-leash dog park on the south side of the Bow River.

Banff’s municipal budget allocates $85,000 for a fenced off-leash dog park at the recreation grounds in 2020, but there’s a suggestion to develop a dog park at the rec grounds, or at another site between Middle Springs and Cave Avenue, next year.

Town of Banff officials say the recommendation is in response to the Bow Valley human-wildlife coexistence taskforce’s conclusion that off-leash dogs continue to be a problem. Council will consider the request during service review and budget discussions on Wednesday, Dec 12.

Amanda Arbuckle, the municipality’s recreation services manager, said a park closer to downtown and residential areas may better support residents and visitors leaving their dogs on-leash and in control within the national park.

“We have about 500 licensed dogs within the town of Banff and there’s a good cohort of these dogs on the south side of the river,” she said.

“We want to make sure residents in that area have an accessible dog park that’s preferably easy to walk to.”

Presently, the recreation grounds redevelopment plans show the proposed off-leash dog park slated for 2020 on the northwest side between the parking lot and canal.

Town of Banff officials say ongoing discussions with Parks Canada about infrastructure improvements near open water indicate that there may be a requirement for additional setbacks.

As a result, they say administration could investigate other locations within and outside of the rec grounds, including an area between Middle Springs and Cave Avenue, or temporarily fencing a ball diamond until a suitable permanent location is found.

“It’s up to council to determine what they feel is best for us to further investigate,” said Arbuckle.

Parks Canada officials say they support fenced dog parks, noting they are proven and effective way to keep wildlife and people safe by reducing the chance of an encounter.

They say dogs create stress for wildlife and can trigger aggressive behaviour from bears and elk, and adding fenced dog parks, when located properly, helps mitigate negative encounters without cutting off key habitat to wildlife.

That said, officials say a proposed off-leash dog park project is still in a conceptual and recommendation form, which makes it challenging to comment on the project generally, and outside of the context of the larger plan for the entire rec grounds.

“At this time, Parks Canada has not been approached for formal feedback on this project,” said Justin Brisbane, a public relations and communications officer for Banff National Park in an email.

“Such a proposal would require an environmental impact analysis, which would consider the need to maintain an adequate riparian buffer between the off-leash dog park and the canal.”

In 2012, council approved construction of an off-leash dog park on Hawk Avenue in the industrial compound at a cost of approximately $30,000. The two-acre dog park is enclosed within a 2.4-metre high wildlife style fence.

The park is well used, according to the Town of Banff, pointing to a 2014 survey in which 85 per cent of 161 respondents indicated they were somewhat or very satisfied with their overall dog park experience.

The top six improvement requests in the survey were for a larger space, potable water, more open areas, swimming opportunities, another off-leash area closer to town and lighting.

Canmore is currently home to five off-leash dog parks, Golden one, Cochrane two and Whistler four.

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