Could Another Off-Leash Dog Park be Coming to Halton Hills?

 

Off-leash dog parks have been a hot topic ever since a three-year-old girl was reportedly bitten by a black and white husky in Mississauga

The conversation of off-leash dog parks is showing no signs of stopping and has now made its way to the Town of Halton Hills.

A recent Halton Hills report, dated Nov. 28, 2018, proposed the idea of another off-leash park at the Trafalgar Sports Park. The main purpose of this proposal was to get Council to endorse the idea of another off-leash park.

In order to address Council’s direction, in regards to the recent proposal, staff compiled a list of best practices for off-leash dog parks in other surrounding municipalities in 2017. 

Common themes that were found included management models, key site selection criteria, typical design standards, and typical maintenance requirements.

A group that is heavily involved in this potential new dog park is Leash Free Halton Hills.

Leash Free Halton Hills is a community interest group formerly known as Halton Hills - Dog Owners Group (HH-DOG), that was originally formed in 2002.

The group worked with town staff for a leash-free zone trail. 

Eventually, a management agreement was signed between the group and the town that outlines the roles and responsibilities of Leash Free Halton Hills and working in cooperation with the town to maintain the off-leash areas at Prospect Park (Acton) and Cedarvale Park (Georgetown). 

In 2007, Council approved the Recreation and Parks Strategic Action Plan. This plan outlined the need for off-leash parks. 

Then, in 2016, Leash Free Halton Hillsworked with the town to issue a survey regarding the use of the current off-leash areas. The survey was a response to an increased demand for a third off-leash area in Georgetown South. The survey targeted the whole community, but respondents were mainly dog owners who frequent off-leash areas 

In this survey, 68 per cent of the 142 families respondents saw the need for an additional off-leash area in Halton Hills.

The top reasons for an additional off-leash area, outlined in the survey, included travel distance from home, overcrowding, existing dog parks being too small, and users looking for a different experience.  

With the Town’s population increasing, it is expected that the level of use of the current off-leash areas will also increase.

This may result in increased incidents at off-leash dogs in unauthorized areas. 

With that being said, the need for another off-leash park is apparent. 

Along with Leash Free Halton Hills, staff reviewed a number of sites in Georgetown South that could be used for a new off-leash park. Several small parks or parkettes were reviewed but were found unsuitable.

Eventually, the Trafalgar Sports Park was deemed an appropriate location.

This location, according to the report, has already seen many changes over the years. Some of these changes, over the past 17 years, have included introducing eleven full-sized soccer fields, one major lit ball diamond, and new parking areas. 

In the current Trafalgar Sports Park Master Plan (2013 update), the area around the proposed off-leash park includes a parking area, an area for court sports, a community amenity zone (playground, washroom building, splash pad), a community green (sportsfield and event space) and a youth activity zone.

However, if Council were to approve the location of the leash free park at Trafalgar Sports Park, some of the proposed uses from the plan would not be able to be accommodated, or may be reduced in size. 

Despite this, staff still noted the following advantages of a leash-free park at Trafalgar Sports Park.

  • A leash-free park would not impact existing park users or adjacent neighbours.
  • Infrastructure exists for water and electrical servicing. 
  • A leash-free park would promote existing off-leash users of the park to use the leash-free park as opposed to existing sports fields.
  • Parking could be shared with other users.
  • Elements of water play would not impact environmental objectives or current operational use. 

There are also still areas of Trafalgar Sports Park that remain undeveloped and could be repurposed if needed.

The full scope of a new off-leash area would include general provisions such as fencing, signage, as well as surfacing, grading, and parking. These provisions would be in addition to the standard features that include a shelter, trees, benches, picnic tables, water supply, and lighting. 

The total cost for an additional dog park at Trafalgar Sports Park is between $250,000 and $300,000. 

Staff is recommending that the Trafalgar Sports Park off-leash area be a joint capital project with Leash Free Halton Hills. 

In past joint capital projects, groups have usually provided at least 10 per cent of the total project costs. 

As a result, Leash Free Halton Hills would need to raise about $25,000 to $30,000. 

Staff is requesting approval from Council in principle for the Trafalgar Sports Park off-leash dog park, subject to the following conditions: 

  • Council Approval of a detailed financial strategy.
  • Fundraising targets met by the group.
  • Update of management agreement conditions if necessary. 

Upon Council approval of the project, Leash Free Halton Hills would start a promotion and fundraising plan, and staff would then prepare a detailed financing strategy. 

Staff would report back on the status of the fundraising efforts and financing strategy, in addition to any required updates to the management agreement terms in coordination with Leash Free Halton Hills as part of a comprehensive joint capital project proposal for consideration as part of the 2020 Capital Budget review. 

Staff will not begin a detailed design of the project until the financial strategy has been accepted by Council and community fundraising targets have been reached. 

Do you think Halton Hills needs another off-leash dog park?

View the Halton Hills report and proposal in full here.

For more information about this potential park, visit the official Leash Free Halton Hills website.

We will continue to provide updates on the status of this off-leash dog park as they become available.

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