Off-leash news for you and your dog each season! Please let us know if you have any suggestions for content. Ideas can be emailed to email@example.com. Thanks for your consideration.
It was a great year for people and dogs!
Next River Park Clean Up
TBA – September 2016
Why? For the love of River Park and our pooches.
Please come dressed for the weather and bring your choice of gloves/bags or a pail/shovel. We’ll pick up poop, garbage, cigarette butts and whatever else doesn’t belong in the park.
There’ll be volunteer sign up sheets at a table near the south end of River Park by the parking lot or with Candice who will be wearing her blue volunteer vest.
This event is weather-dependent. If it snows we’ll postpone. Watch for more details on the website or through our Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Hope to see you there!
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?
- Do you ignore it and walk on by?
- Do you grumble and pick it up?
- 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? Maybe a little humour could be helpful. How about the following suggestions?
“Oh my, your dog is leaving a messy situation behind.”
“I just observed your dog scratching around. He seems quite impressed with his output today.”
“Oh dear… that’s a crappy situation.”
“Oh look… Your dog’s end result is over there.”
“Hi there. Looks like you’re on clean-up doo-ty.”
“I spy with my little eye something that is brown.”
“Attention please… Clean up on trail two!”
“Wow, your dog would easily win the prize for biggest output!”
“Whoa, that one would sure make a mess of someone’s shoes.”
“Yikes! That one’s gotta be a two-bagger. Let me know if you need an extra bag.”
“Too bad there’s no prize for largest park deposit but your dog would certainly win!”
“Goodness! How much does your dog eat to have output like that?”
“Your dog just dropped a load big enough to bury a small child.”
Depending on the situation, you could follow up with one of these comments:
- “May I offer you a bag?”
- “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 chosen approach and thanks for your help!
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:
- 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Representation, Goals, Affiliations and More
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.
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.