Strength in Numbers

Our team advocates for healthy lifestyles through walking with our dogs. We lead by example and educate fellow park users about respectful use whenever possible. We find much value in the old saying “There’s strength in numbers” and we hope you will too. Here’s what we mean:

  1. Everyone benefits when there’s a large group of people keeping River Park clean (free of faeces, broken dog toys, garbage, cigarette butts etc.). It results in a pleasant experience for all park users and keeps competing interest groups and people opposed to off-leash access at bay.
  2. Overall, people tend to follow suit and there’s better chance of buy-in when everyone makes an effort to maintain the park on a regular basis.
  3. Following our lead and example helps to build on the culture we’ve created at River Park.

We hope you’ll support the cause. For regular updates about River Park, visit our website and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for your consideration.

The Leadership Team’s Efforts

Off-leash walking is similar to other forms of recreation, people just happen to do it with a dog. We believe that people support off-leash initiatives by volunteering or conducting themselves in an ethical manner, much like people do for other recreational activities. The biggest difference is off-leash recreation is not organized like other activities and often dog people are quite oblivious that there are any issues or that there are people with competing interests in park spaces.

These are the primary reasons for creating an off-leash advocacy group with a leadership team.

Most people have no idea that meetings, a consultation process and surveys occurred from 2006 to 2009. It resulted in passing of a design and development plan for River Park, Sandy Beach and the Britannia Slope in 2011.

Our group tried our best to represent dog people with off-leash interests. We were disappointed to lose 1/3 of the total off-leash access in River Park and approximately 50% of off-leash access in Sandy Beach and the Britannia Slope.

Much of the plans posted on The City of Calgary’s website are on hold, likely because they stated $8 million would be needed to proceed with and complete development.

We have everyone’s best interests at heart but we are most passionate about off-leash walking and we’re willing to work to maintain access in the park. Our leadership team continues to keep abreast of park developments and works daily to educate fellow dog people about the importance of supporting and maintaining cleanliness in the park and modelling good behaviour. The intention is to ensure we maintain off-leash privileges in the amount of space we have.

For the Love of Our Dogs

group pic

We are so fortunate to have access to a multi-use space that allows off-leash dogs. There are many off-leash parks in Calgary but there’s something really special about River Park. Maybe it’s the view of downtown Calgary and the Elbow River that delights you. Or perhaps you like the variety of trees, gentle grade of the terrain, multitude of benches and access to a port-a-potty. Others love the Cat Margetts memorial area that houses the fountain for dogs and people.

Some of the comments we consistently hear is that it’s so clean and that people who walk dogs at River Park tend to be quite responsible. We also hear that dogs are well behaved and people are super friendly.

Yes, it’s all true. There’s a culture at River Park that’s been nurtured by dog people since acquiring off-leash status in 1987. Dog people love River Park and as a whole, we’re willing to work to maintain our off-leash access. Walking with our dogs is a healthy activity, for dogs and people. The result is a better behaved and well socialized dog – maybe this goes for people too!

On any given day, during any kind of weather, people and dogs can be found walking and playing in River Park. And we want to keep it this way.

If you plan on visiting River Park for the first time or on a regular basis, we hope you’ll join the pack and adopt the culture we’ve worked so hard to maintain. It’s all for the love of our dogs, fellow park users – and of course, the park.

All For One and One for All

CandiceSince 1989 Candice Lee and her husband have enjoyed River Park with their dogs. She is the founder and team lead for the Friends of River Park Society.

Candice manages the email list, writes the off-leash newsletter and is the creator and manager of our website. She also fills the bag dispensers, coordinates fundraisers, organizes off-leash events and helps manage social media for our group. She and her husband regularly help with maintenance projects and contribute funds toward dog waste bags and various items for the park.

Candice sits on various off-leash committees and was involved in the direction and creation of FRPS’ review of Calgary off-leash spaces. She was a City of Calgary Dog Ambassador for River Park until the program ended in 2010 and was a City of Calgary volunteer with parks until the program ended in 2015.

Candice works as a communications professional specializing in graphic design, digital and social media, advertising, event planning, writing and website management.


ColleenAfter many hours of voluntering for our group, Colleen H accepted a public education role with FRPS in September 2009.

Colleen strongly believes in keeping the park clean and can be seen doing her part and more each day. At every one of our clean-up events, she promotes off-leash advocacy by talking to dog owners about the importance of maintaining the park and having well-behaved dogs. Colleen has helped with all of our dog waste bag fundraising events, and spends many hours each week doing her own park clean-up efforts. Colleen leads by example through supporting the park with her own monetary donation to supply dog waste bags for River Park. And by the way, she is the alternate person who fills River Park’s green metal dog waste bag dispensers.

Colleen and her family are neighbourhood residents, and she and her dog, Rosey are fixtures at River Park.

Countless times while walking Rosey, she is recognized by many children and their parents as a former schoolteacher.


AndreasAndreas Wissman joined The Friends of River Park leadership team in 2013 to help us keep up with all the fun stuff (and more) related to people and dogs through Twitter. He has been walking in the park since the mid 90’s.

Andreas, Mimi and their Lab cross, Skyy are a big part of River Park’s social scene. On occasion, Andreas randomly stops people in the park to collect photos and info (that could be about your dog and/or you), then posts a short bio of the dogs on our Twitter account.

Andreas, together with Candice, manages the park’s Twitter account to advocate and educate around all park-related as well as human/dog health and wellness issues. He is particularly passionate about the fact that a relatively low-cost facility such as our inner city dog park can have a meaningful impact on community well-being for humans and dogs of all ages. He has to actively suppress his inner science nerd not to tweet too much hard-core science-related news around this.

Speaking of nerd, Andreas started off as a molecular biology scientist but in recent years has become more involved in supporting Calgary’s tech start-up scene (especially as it relates to biotech, health and wellness). Nevertheless, he’s a sucker when it comes to movies such as ‘My Dog Skip’ or ‘Marley & Me’. For that reason, he still hasn’t brought himself to watch ‘Old Yeller’.


LindaLong before owning a dog, Linda S became an Off-leash Calgary member because of her strong beliefs about off-leash advocacy. After acquiring her first dog in 2003, Linda began walking in River Park and joined the Friends of River Park leadership team in 2007.

Linda was instrumental in developing FRPS’ Off-leash Parks presentation. The purpose of this project was to learn about off-leash parks in Calgary and to determine their suitability as off-leash areas from a user perspective. We wanted to have hard evidence that several of the parks were not suitable for any kind of use by people or dogs. Over a period of six months, Linda visited all the 141 parks listed on the City of Calgary’s website and evaluated them, listing their suitability as off-leash areas. Through this project we learned River Park was indeed one of the best off-leash parks in Calgary. Linda’s  sharp memory makes her the perfect go-to person for questions related to off-leash parks.

Linda is a retired lawyer who sits on various off-leash committees and donates a great deal of time to River Park. She volunteered as a City of Calgary park ranger until the program ended in 2010. Linda also generously donates many give-away items for our clean-up efforts and social events and donates money for River Park’s dog waste bags.


PattyPatty L, her husband and their two dogs are community-minded neighbourhood residents and long-time walkers in River Park. As a family, they have supported many clean-up events over the years and often conduct their own efforts. They have always generously donated funds to supply dog waste bags for the green metal dispensers in the park.

Patty is a realtor as well as a communications professional who has her own business specializing in event coordination, strategic planning and media relations.

In September 2009, she joined FRPS as a member of our communications team, specializing in strategy, media matters and project management. Patty handles media inquiries for the Friends of River Park Off-leash Advocates and has been quoted in the Calgary Herald.


NadinaNadina S began walking at River Park in 1990 when the River Park escarpment, Sandy Beach and all of the Britannia Slope were designated off-leash areas.

Nadina was quick to sign up as one of the original members of the FRPS leadership team advising on animal behaviour. She taught dog training courses, and owned and operated a dog daycare until 2012.

She feels many current spaces are inadequate or unsafe and off-leash space has been significantly reduced over the years. Nadina is concerned that designated space is not keeping pace with the city’s growing dog population. She hopes
a decent and fair share of spaces will be designated as dog-only “Bark Parks”.

Continuing with her passion for all animals Nadina started taking courses in animal homeopathy. At first it was for personal interests but she has decided to pursue it with the intention of teaching in the future.

Nadina lends her keen business sense to our group and also supports River Park by donating funds for dog waste bags.


KateMeet Kate C, a long-time Altadore resident and long-time off-leash advocate who has enjoyed River Park with her dogs since 1972.

Kate was awarded by the City of Calgary for initiating annual River Park clean-ups and educating others about maintenance and care of the park back in the late 1980s. This effort morphed into the annual citywide clean-up campaign each spring. The Friends of River Park leadership team is grateful to have her experience and expertise.

Kate is also the past president for the Pet Loss Support Group and was instrumental in the erection of a pet memorial wall at the Calgary Humane Society. She was a City of Calgary dog ambassador for River Park until the program ended in 2010 and sat as a committee member to review off-leash spaces.

Kate continues to volunteer with the Friends of River Park leadership committee in the role of public education. She and her husband also donate funds toward dog waste bags for the park.


Kathleen Molly_revisedBefore joining the leadership team recently in 2015, Kathleen H has been helping at River Park clean-ups since adopting her dog Molly two years ago. She is an avid runner who can be seen jogging with Molly through various nearby neighbourhoods as well as through River Park.

Kathleen picks up more than her share each time she’s in the park, partly because it’s the right thing to do, but also because Molly is a poop eater. In an odd way that means Molly is doing her part to keep the park clean too.

As a communications professional by day, we are fortunate to have Kathleen  provide strategic direction and contribute content for the off-leash newsletter. She has also kindly offered to help manage our Facebook page.


LynnLynn M, her husband along with their two dogs, McKenzie and Iggy, are longtime River Park members. Since 2009, she and her husband have kindly provided the lost and found boxes as well as any replacements due to vandalism. Lynn also manages the lost and found box content (recycling contents when possible for various charities and discarding other contents as needed).

As a family, they have supported countless park clean-ups and Lynn picks up garbage and any leftovers she comes across during her daily walks.

Lynn worked at one of our tables during the last dog waste bag fundraiser for River Park and their family generously donated to the cause.

Just after the Thanksgiving long weekend in October 2015, when water to the River Park fountain was shut off, our group wrapped the fountain in plastic garbage bags to protect it from dog urine, frost and snow. Fearing the efforts may not be enough, Lynn took it one step further by purchasing a plastic tub and placing it around the base. The fountain will fare well over this winter thanks to Lynn!

Representation, Goals, Affiliations and More

Representation
Leadership team members meet regularly to discuss strategy and tactics. In the early days of meetings for the park (2006 to 2011) it was decided the best tactic was to educate and inform fellow dog owners about respectful and responsible park use.

Goal
Ultimately FRPS’ goal is to preserve off-leash access in this multi-use park. FRPS continues to conduct bi-monthly clean-ups and its members do their own efforts on a daily basis.

Affiliations
The leadership team has affiliations with The Southland Natural Park Society, The Friends of Nosehill, The Friends of Bowmont and The Varsity Off-leash Group.

Other Efforts
In 2008-2009, Linda and Candice from the leadership team created an off-leash presentation after visiting and researching each of the 141 off-leash areas listed on The City of Calgary’s website. The purpose was to learn about off-leash parks in Calgary and log pros and cons with each one. We were surprised to discover that many parks were near busy roads, were very small or were unusable and undesirable areas.

It was sent to aldermen and Bill Bruce,The City of Calgary Bylaw Director as well as several radio and television stations. The presentation along with an off-leash advocacy speech was presented by Linda and Candice to the Standing Policy Committee at City Hall early in 2009.

Off-leash History at River Park

Fortunately for dog enthusiasts, River Park gained off-leash status around 1987 as a result of Calgary Alderman Barb Scott, as she was a person with dog-related interests.

In 1987, Kate Currey, a local resident and dog person noticed fellow dog people were at times negligent about cleaning up after their dogs. She started a group of concerned dog people who began holding clean up efforts in the park.

Among Kate’s group of supporters was Candice Lee, a fellow dog person and local resident. Candice happened to have a large network of dog friends at River Park who gathered at various times for walks, supported clean ups and also socialized outside of the park. By the late 1990’s Candice’s group had grown to approximately 200 people.

In 2007 Candice learned about potential paving of trails and reduction of space affecting off-leash access in River Park. She discovered people from competing interest groups in the park had been meeting since 2006 about various matters. As the only dog representative, Candice was invited to the table early in 2007. As a result of this new direction, Candice’s group morphed into the Friends of River Park Society (FRPS) with an elected six-member leadership team. Followers grew to over 800 email addresses, representing single and multiple person households.

Meetings continued where competing interest groups expressed four main concerns:

  • Poor behaviour (dogs and their people)
  • Over-use (focus to reduce amount of dogs in the park)
  • Lack of maintenance
  • Feces left by negligent dog people

The FRPS leadership team immediately addressed concerns by educating fellow dog owners about competing interest groups’ concerns, influencing behaviour of people and dogs, and keeping the park clean. Candice’s group began clean-up efforts every second month throughout each year.

Signage

For dog owners, use throughout River Park is designated by signs to indicate off-leash and on-leash areas. Pedestrians and cyclists also frequent the park. Because a gravel trail is conveniently located in the middle of the park, many cyclists use it as a commuter route to access downtown, however, the designated cycling route is 14A Street which also is clearly marked with signs.