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Barking up the right tree

Cold Lake resident Tammy Hawco has thrown the idea of an off-leash dog park out there, now she's just waiting to see if she gets a bite.
Dog Park
Cold Lake resident Tammy Hawco pitched her off-leash dog park to council on Tuesday.

Cold Lake resident Tammy Hawco has thrown the idea of an off-leash dog park out there, now she's just waiting to see if she gets a bite.

City council heard first-hand how local pet owners would benefit from a centrally located off-leash dog park during their Tuesday, Nov. 26 meeting.

"With the continuous growth of our city, I found it increasingly difficult to find a safe location to exercise my dogs that doesn't intrude upon non-dog friendly properties," Hawco exclaimed. "This would provide a needed service to dog owners, as well as an added amenity for those that live in the Lakeland."

Pet owners are currently making the trip to 4 Wing to utilize a former baseball diamond tuned into an off-leash dog park.

According to Hawco, "It was basically taken over by residents when it was no longer used for sports."

Dog owners are now using the space daily to exercise and socialize their four-legged loved ones.

Hawco would like the city to consider building a park of their own at Imperial Park.

"Having a dedicated area for the canine community would allow for safe regular exercise and would hopefully deter owners from frequenting other restricted city spaces, such as the beach, with their dogs," she said. "It would also encourage residents to socialize with others while at the park, thus promoting a strong sense of community. This area would also be a welcome resource for those vacationing or camping in the Lakeland area."

The recommendation is a minimum five-foot fully fenced space near the baseball diamonds at the Energy Centre.

"What we would like to see is two areas, one for smaller dogs, below the height of 14-inches, a lot of people find that their smaller dogs don't feel comfortable in the larger area with bigger dogs, so this way they would be able to have more fun and exercise in a spot by themselves," Hawco explained.

Although she would take any size of space, Hawco said the bigger the better.

"A five-foot fence would work, but a six-foot fence would definitely be a little bit better, it would stop the dogs that are escape artists and it would prevent wildlife from coming in."

A water source, lighting, agility activities, benches, and picnic tables were some of the optional items, while bag dispensers and garbage cans fell on the needed list.

A local fencing company quoted Hawco $50,000 for a park that includes a half-acre space for small dogs and 2.5-acre area for large dogs.

After doing some research of her own, Hawco discovered waste bag stations designed for dog parks with garbage cans are roughly $290 each.

Of course the space wouldn't come without a few rules. Aside from the disclaimer stating the city isn't responsible for any incidents that take place in the park, there would be additional regulations users must abide by. In order to access the park, pet owners must have their dog licensed with the city and their canine has to have their dog tag visible at all times while in the park.

"All dogs must have their vaccinations, it would be kind of crazy not to want that," Hawco said, adding owners are also responsible for picking up after their dogs, and must remove their pets if they show any sign of aggression.

"Owners are legally responsible for their dogs and the injuries caused by them."

There would also be a set maximum number of dogs per person. Hawco recommended three dogs per visitor, which was a common theme among other parks she's visited and researched.

"That seems to be pretty set, anything after that and you're not able to supervise them properly," Hawco noted.

Users aren't allowed to smoke, eat, drink, or vape while in the park.

Hawco suggested Imperial Park as a possible location because its central to both sides of the city, has space, and is frequented by residents for numerous sporting and social activities.

"Both Imperial Park and Energy Centre are very recognizable in the Lakeland, making the off-leash park easy to locate for those visiting and vacationing in the area," she added. "A lot of people don't want them in green spaces near basic housing because of the barking. most of them have them in the industrial area or just on the outskirts of town."

Mayor Craig Copeland said the spot Hawco chose "doesn't do a whole lot," at the moment, and it looks promising.

He explained how this was on the city's list of things needed in the community and how Hawco wasn't the first resident to bring up the need for an off-leash dog park.

"A five-foot fence would work, but a six-foot fence would definitely be a little bit better, it would stop the dogs that are escape artists and it would prevent wildlife from coming in," he said.

Coun. Chris Vining noted, "I love passive recreation opportunities. They're excellent. Anytime we can give people the chance to get out and do communal things in more or less a free space... those are good things for the community."