Construction and development is in full swing at River Park. Since May, park users have raised many questions. Kathleen and Candice, members from the Friends of River Park leadership team connected with two representatives from The City of Calgary, the Project Manager and a Parks Community Strategist.
View details of the meeting on July 26, 2016.
Lots of off-leash news to share each month! Please let us know if you have any suggestions for content. Ideas can be emailed to email@example.com. Thanks for your consideration.
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.
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:
- Keep it clean (faeces, broken toys, garbage, cigarette butts).
- Donate to our fundraising efforts for poop bags.
- 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.
- If you see someone miss their dog having a poop, politely bring it to their attention.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your consideration.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 it as a commuter route to access downtown, however, the designated cycling route is 14A Street which also is clearly marked with signs.
River Park is located at 4500 14A Street SW and is open for use from 5am to 11pm. It is often considered part of a wider area that contains Sandy Beach (along the Bow River) and the Britannia Slopes, an escarpment on the east side.