Rover gets more room to roam

Dog owners now have three additional permanent off-leash sites to choose from in Nanaimo with three more being introduced as pilot sites.

Dog owners now have three additional permanent off-leash sites to choose from in Nanaimo, with another three also being introduced as pilot sites.

City council approved the permanent installment of Colliery Dam Park (from 6-10 a.m. daily and 4 p.m. to close), Beaufort Park and Diver Lake Park (Oct. 1 to March 31) as off-leash sites.

Those inclusions join established areas like Westwood Lake Park (along the hydro lines), the enclosed park at Beban Park and Cable Bay.

But after lengthy public consultation, three more sites are now available as pilot projects in 2011, including the forested area adjacent to May Richards Bennett Park, Invermere Beach and St. George Ravine Park.

“The public process has been a positive one and for the most part, the comments are favourable,” said Coun. Diana Johnstone, chairwoman of the Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission. “There was some concern about Invermere Beach being a private and pristine little beach, but the entire beach won’t be available to the public. If people respect it and clean up after their dogs, it will work well.”

Having a place for the dogs to swim was a priority for many dog owners who took part in the process.

With the addition of the new off-leash areas, however, will come responsibility to the dog owners, Johnstone added.

To ensure the city’s 8,000 registered dogs (there are thousands more estimated to be unlicensed) behave themselves while running free, and owners follow proper procedure and pick up after their pets, a Good Neighbours Dog Program is being offered by the city to raise awareness on etiquette for dog owners who choose to take their dogs to these parks.

While currently an optional program, it could also be a consequence for people who build a history of off-leash infractions.

“I hope a lot of people take advantage of the opportunity to train their dogs through this new program,” said Johnstone. “It teaches dog owners to be respectful of others. Most dogs are friendly, but some tend to be over-friendly and jump up on children, which can be frightening for them. That’s a concern of some people.”

Currently, those who pass the course get a discount when renewing their dog licence.

To help dog owners better understand the rules in a particular park, new signage will be installed and a campaign will be launched later this month in the form of a brochure to educate people. Enforcement will also be stepped up in all off-leash areas.

The pilot sites come into effect as off-leash areas immediately and will undergo a one-year trial. After that, each site will be assessed to determine if it becomes a permanent site.

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