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Off-leash dog parks could fill a need in Edmonton’s suburban neighbourhoods, pilot shows

Edmonton’s growing population could use more space for their canine companions to let loose, a new city report shows. 

The City of Edmonton created 19 pop-up dog parks last year from May to October 2023, and determined that 14 of them were in medium to high demand from local residents. 

The sites are mostly in neighbourhoods with no existing off-leash areas. 

The city chose the sites based on population, number of dog licences, requests from Edmontonians and ensuring they’re a 15-minute or 1.25-kilometre walk from residences.

Michael Janz, councillor for Ward papastew, said it’s a sign the city needs more off-leash spaces.

“As a city, we spend millions and millions of dollars on spray parks, on playgrounds, on park benches and beautifying public spaces,” Janz told CBC News in an interview Monday. 

“Yet we know in Edmonton there’s as many dogs, if not more dogs than there are children. So we know that dogs are really important: that they build community, that they bring neighbours together.”

Edmonton currently has more than 50 off-leash areas, the city website says. 

The city’s end-of-season pop-up parks evaluation shows on average, 60 per cent of 2,842 respondents to a survey, posted online and done on paper, said they’d like to have the parks in the same location. 

The pop-up off-leash areas were on parkland that’s not being used for other programmed recreational activities, the city report said. 

Approval of the piloted sites varied.

The city recommends several sites be turned into fenced, ongoing parks in the following neighbourhoods: Summerside, Charlesworth, Bulyea Heights, Windermere, Secord, Webber Greens, Britannia Youngstown, Jamieson Place and Meadowlark Park.

Others with medium to high demand could be made into temporary seasonal or year-round sites, the report says. 

Those include Carlton, Glastonbury, Ambleside, Glenridding Heights and South Terwillegar.

The ones with a low turnout include Trumpeter, Matt Berry and Granville. The city recommends these be removed from the list of potential future sites. 

Cost estimates

To maintain up to 20 temporary, seasonal sites from May to October, the city estimates it would cost $147,300 in annual ongoing funds with a $125,000 one-time funding for 2024.

For 20 year-round locations, it’s estimated to need $248,032 annual ongoing and $125,000 one time funding for 2024.

“It’s so cheap compared to when you look at how much playgrounds cost,” Janz said. 

The parks can also provide social infrastructure and give underused spaces new life and new purpose, Janz added. 

“I think it’s a phenomenal return on investment. It’s one of the biggest bang for our buck things that we can do as a municipality.”

Casey walks around the Meadowlark neighbourhood every day with owner, Don Noble.
Don Noble walks his dog, Casey, around the Meadowlark neighbourhood and says a permanent off-leash park would benefit the area. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Meadowlark Park has a rink, a school playground and field but the designated off-leash site last year was popular, local resident said Don Noble in an interview Monday.

Noble walks his dog, Casey, around the neighbourhood every day. He said the off-leash area was put to good use. 

“I think it would be better to just have a permanent place and then everybody in the neighbourhood knows they can go there, and all year-round as well,” Noble said. 

Each pop-up dog park had etiquette and boundary signage, dog waste bag dispensers and garbage cans. 

Council’s community and public services committee is scheduled to review the report at a meeting Feb. 26 and decide on what’s next for Edmonton’s future off-leash parks.

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