Approaching a Messy Situation

We’ve all observed someone who hasn’t noticed their dog pooping. Most times it’s unintentional but the fact is, there’s a missed opportunity to keep the park clean.

Many people struggle with this situation. What to do?

  1. Do you ignore it and walk on by?
  2. Do you grumble and pick it up?
  3. Do you call the person, point it out and hope they pick it up?

If you choose to approach the person, what are some polite, non-confrontational things to say? How about the following:

  1. “Pardon me. Is that your dog having a poop?”
  2. “Oh my, I believe your dog is leaving a mess behind.”
  3. “Looks like your dog is depositing a load over there.”
  4. “May I bring to your attention… your dog is pooping.”
  5. “Oh look… I think that’s your dog having a dump.”
  6. “Hi there. Looks like you’re on clean-up doo-ty.”
  7. “I believe it’s your turn to pick up.”

Depending on the situation, you could follow up with one of these comments:

  1. “May I offer you a bag?”
  2. “Thanks for helping us keep the park clean.”

There are so many ways to approach the subject but we feel these are a few gentle and effective ways to gain compliance. Best wishes with your approach and thanks for your help!

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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.

Give It Up for River Park

Do you adore your dog? Are you thankful for having off-leash privileges in River Park? Are you willing to lend your support to ensure we maintain off-leash access?

There are various ways to support River Park:

  1. Keep it clean (faeces, broken toys, garbage, cigarette butts).
  2. Donate to our fundraising efforts for poop bags.
  3. Make sure your dog is well-behaved. River Park is a multi-use space with off-leash privileges so that means all other users are welcome too.
  4. If you see someone miss their dog having a poop, politely bring it to their attention.
  5. If you find a left over poop, please clean it up. Give people the benefit of doubt as many of us have missed one on occasion.

Hope you’ll lend a hand in one or more ways. All efforts are welcome and appreciated. Have more ideas or suggestions? Please let us know by emailing riverparkoffleash@gmail.com. Thanks for your consideration.

Poop Bags Supplies in River Park

Did you know… Our group periodically fundraises to supply ALL of the poop bags located in the green metal dispensers in River Park. Yes that’s right… bags are not organized or supplied by The City of Calgary!

Candice Lee from the Friends of River Park Leadership Team organizes fundraising, arranges the bag order, stores them at her house and fills the bag dispensers each day. If you find the bag dispenser is empty it means bag use was high that day or Candice is on holidays and couldn’t find anyone to fill in.

During the warm weather months (typically May through October) bag use increases to 9000 bags each month. It’s hard to believe that many people forget to bring a bag. The fact of the matter is some people rely on the bags as their personal supply.

Please help us reduce bag use in the park. Bags are not free. Fundraising is hard work and let’s be honest, not everyone contributes. Although the result is a clean park, the bags provided in the green metal dispensers are a BACK UP SYSTEM.

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!