Off-leash Advocacy

River Park is an extremely valuable recreational area for local residents as well as people from other areas of the city. All users of the park agree that people want a healthy, clean, safe environment that everyone can enjoy. In order to achieve this goal, everyone needs to share and be respectful, reasonable, responsible and considerate. Green spaces in Calgary are here for all residents and we appreciate the challenges the City faces related to developing and managing appropriate use of space. We applaud the City in their efforts to maintain the health of the park for all users.

Dog Owner Support for the Wellbeing of River Park

  • Dog owners want to work toward a solution to help sustain the wellbeing of parks.
  • Dog owners do not object to the City’s plans to re-establish worn areas. May the City be reminded that heavy use is indicative of the vital role the park plays in the healthy lifestyles of dog owners.
  • Dog owners need to respectfully share space.
  • Dog owners need to be responsible and clean up after their dogs.
  • Many dog owners contribute to the park’s wellbeing when they participate in clean-up days of River Park, organized by volunteers and held bi-monthly throughout the year. As well, there are many dog owners who, on a daily basis, pick up garbage and faeces left behind by others.

Dog Owners’ Opposition to changes/Support for off-leash access

Upon hearing proposals and council-approved plans for two pathways, dog owners are concerned about losing their off-leash status in River Park.

  • There are several groups with competing interests in green spaces. The interests are not necessarily incompatible, but some are certainly less compatible than others.
  • Although River Park is a multi-use area, the majority of people go there for exercise with their dog. Regardless of weather conditions, off-leash walking rates as one of the highest engaged outdoor activities in any area of the city, throughout the year. Dog owners are equally passionate about off-leash dog walking as their form of recreation as others feel about their chosen types of activities.
  • Off-leash walking is a community building activity that facilitates socializing of humans and dogs and in fact, creates a better-socialized dog. The latter concept is supported by dog behaviourists and the City of Calgary’s Chief Bylaw Officer.
  • Facilities and access for other recreational users are abundant throughout the city. These opportunities far out-weigh the off-leash access choices for dog owners. People without dogs can go anywhere in the city. Children have playgrounds and schoolyards on which dogs aren’t allowed. Cyclists and runners have designated pathways that dogs aren’t allowed to use. Calgary boasts one of the best established pathway systems in Canada. Calgary also has some of the finest off-leash areas.
  • The City lists several off-leash access sites, but many dog owners report they are not suitable for various reasons (i.e. too close to traffic, slopes are too steep, no lights etc). People come from all over the city to use River Park. Dogs and owners – many with children and the small amount of runners and slow cyclists harmoniously share the space with few negative encounters. Reducing recreational space in any way increases usage in the remaining spaces or creates more usage in other areas. As with any situation where usage increases, it is likely that negative encounters will also increase. Considering the amount of usage, the percentage of negative encounters is very low. If anything, a potential solution to address the issue of over-use in city owned parks is to consider creating more designated off-leash areas.
  • The nature of off-leash walking doesn’t lend itself well to small spaces.
  • Creating on-leash rules may decrease dog walking in the park, but many people will still choose River Park to walk their dog. It is highly unlikely runners and cyclists would want to weave their way through owners with dogs on leash, so usage will still overwhelmingly be dog walking.

To summarize, dog owners wish to maintain their off-leash status, but want to be respectful of initiatives to maintain the health of River Park and considerate of all other users.

To be successful, we suggest to keep things simple. Enforce the rules we have and don’t create a bunch more.

Best practices include consultation, education and cooperation. In other words: meet with users, inform them of issues and work together toward solutions and common objectives.