Understanding the behaviours and needs of the primary users of a space is essential to creating one that is accessible, usable, safe, and attractive.
Creating a dog park involves much more than putting a fence around a section of open space. It’s essential that architects, city planners, developers, etc. consult a professional educated in dog behaviour early in the design phase because the problems that plague dog parks can be dramatically reduced (even prevented) simply by altering its design.
Common Dog Park Problems (That Can Be Addressed Through Design):
Dog Owner Behaviour
Damage to Landscape
Problems for Nearby Residents
Dog-dog aggression, “bullying”, “predatory drift”, and dog-human aggression.
Dog owners not picking up their dog’s feces either intentionally or unintentionally.
Dog Owner Behaviour:
Not leashing dogs when walking between the vehicle and the park, congregating in congested areas (especially near the entrance), socializing instead of paying attention to dogs.
Damage to Landscape:
Erosion from excessive traffic (especially in wet areas), dog urine, and digging/chewing.
Ineffective fencing and gate systems, ground cover that can damage dogs paws, no access to potable water during hot weather; dangerous plants, no barrier to something potentially dangerous or undesirable to some dog owners, such as a body of water, a steep slope, or objects that have potential to cause serious injuries.
Problems for Nearby Residents:
Excessive barking of dogs in park or residents’ dogs, off-leash dogs running onto private property, and fence fighting with residents’ dogs.
Many of these problems can be addressed in the design phase
There are many groups opposed to the idea of redeveloping the Regent Park Par 3 Golf Course into an area with housing options because of risks to residents: specifically flooding, increased crime, lack of green space and low-cost family-centred recreation and its connection to child poverty.*
After reading the concerns brought forward by the delegates presenting to City Council, I would hope that Council will be unanimous in voting to keep the area as a green space with a vast number of 60 year old trees (over 300 of them) and incorporating hiking trails, some fully-fenced off-leash areas, and family- centred amenities such as picnic areas, spray pad, disc golf, a toboggan hill. As well, since this area is on Treaty 4 land and within the traditional territory of the Metis, the entire project should include in some way, a respectful homage to the First Nations and Metis. This solution has been suggested by one of the delegates and supported by many of the others because it will address all of the risks outlined by the delegates presenting.
Including some fully-fenced off-leash parks will be instrumental in the success of this redevelopment idea.
Flood Risk: getting rid of the trees and building on the green space will cause severe flooding for the residents in the area. This is supported by engineer reports. For this reason alone, the space should be kept as a green space with the water absorbing trees. Green space and trees are perfect for off-leash areas.
Crime Prevention: A fully-fenced off-leash park that has trees and a lovely green space will be supported by a lot dog owners from all over the city. Off-leash parks are a crime deterrent because they bring more eyes to the area, so to speak. New York proves this to be true.
What if the area could be developed in such a way that the community is able to generate income and jobs from the space?
This may sound crazy, but what if this idea for a “Family Park & Hiking Trails with Off-leash Areas” provided residents opportunities for employment and/or to generate income for their community programs. Some ideas could include a concession shop to buy dog treats, a pay-per-use dog wash station, a doggie swimming pool area (pay to use), a private off-leash area (pay to use), and selling advertising space on the dog park fencing or amenities within the dog park?
Incorporating some fully-fenced off-leash areas into the Family Park and Hiking Trails proposal is a win-win for all community stakeholders.
We can dare to dream!
*All but one of the 4 proposals include a high-density housing development (townhouses and low-cost senior housing). According to some of the delegates speaking, there is no guarantee that the developers will build low-cost housing for seniors, and some have suggested that this proposal is merely a smoke-screen for building low-cost housing that is smaller than standard housing and/or rentals — in an area where there is already a high vacancy rate. According to some of the delegates’ notes, the existing senior housing in the area has a low percentage of seniors living there, and high-density low-cost housing attracts crime and keeps people in poverty.