Off-Leash Dogs - Pilot Project

Summer 2022 Update

The first of the District’s new off-leash dog areas, Merrill Park, is now open.

Signage has been installed at all entrances to the park to indicate that the park is an off-leash trail area and to educate users about the conditions they must follow to have their dog off-leash. 

The next off-leash area, under the BC Hydro lines in Brackendale, is expected to open in early 2023.

Fall 2021 Engagement

The District of Squamish conducted a survey to collect public feedback on an updated list of proposed pilot locations in Squamish for off-leash dogs and a set of conditions owners must meet to use those locations. The survey was open from September 24 - October 12, 2021.

Based on the feedback received during the fall 2021 engagement period, Council endorsed a plan to trial the following off-leash dog locations as a pilot project:

  • John Hunter Park, Valleycliffe
  • Brennan Park Fenced Dog Run
  • Merrill Park, Garibaldi Highlands
  • Powerline Service Road, Brackendale

The locations that require an investment in fencing and infrastructure will move forward as part of the 2023 budget process.

You can find information on the engagement process, including a summary of what the District heard in the survey, maps of the locations that were considered, and a list of the conditions that dog owners must follow in order to use the off-leash locations at: https://letstalksquamish.ca/dog-off-leash-locations

Background

With a growing population of dogs and dog owners in the community, the District identified the need to address off-leash dogs, and dog owner responsibility. Keeping dogs and the community safe is an important issue for the District. Impacts from off-leash dogs can range from little to very high consequences for people and the environment. In addition, the District is responsible for ensuring its bylaws remain up to date with changing times, complied with, and enforceable.

Public engagement on a set of proposed locations was conducted in 2019, however in 2020 the emerging COVID-19 pandemic forced staff to focus on other priorities. Since public engagement in 2019, staff narrowed down the original proposed options based on wildlife interface and access issues to develop additional new sites to propose to the community for public feedback.

The District reviewed all feedback to date regarding dog off-leash areas and considered factors such as:

  • The community’s growth;
  • Increase in number of dogs in the community;
  • Wildlife encounters; the need for conserving sensitive environments;
  • Land access to inform the recommendation of updated appropriate off-leash sites across the community.

The District will do a full review of the Animal Control Bylaw in 2022 as part of the ongoing work on the off-leash dogs process. 

Project History and Timeline

Spring 2022: Anticipated opening of the some of the off-leash dog pilot locations

Fall 2021: Public survey on an updated list of proposed off-leash dog locations. Based on the feedback received, Council endorsed a plan to move forward with four locations as a pilot project. Council also directed staff to conduct engagement to find a downtown off-leash dog location.

May 2021: District staff began reviewing past public feedback, as well as internal engagement with staff (Parks, Planning, Wildlife, Environment, and Bylaw Enforcement) and agency stakeholders (RCMP and BC Conservation Office) on the proposed dog off-leash locations and the draft Animal Control Bylaw

March 2020: As the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, Bylaw Enforcement staff turned their focus to emerging priorities. The project was placed on hold until 2021.

February 2020: The District of Squamish podcast, District B-Sides, aired a podcast discussing off leash dogs in Squamish. Listen to the podcast here.

October 2019: Online comment period open for those who could not attend the open house.

September 2019: Open house held to review the suggested locations and times, owner responsibility conditions, and updates to the bylaw. (View the poster boards)

April-May 2019: Online survey to gather community input into dog off-leash areas and owner responsibility conditions.

 

 

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Comments

  • James White Mar 1, 2022, 2:04 PM (7 months ago)

    From above: "Next Steps: Feedback collected in the survey will be used to help inform a staff recommendation to Council in November about whether some or all of the proposed locations should move forward."

    It is now the beginning of March 2022 and there has been no update to this page since the fall of 2021. In the meantime, your newly-hired bylaw manager and their team have been actively installing massive signs around town to tell us about the places we're not allowed to let our pets roam. Would have been nice for this to have happened in concert with the unveiling or trialling of the newly-minted off-leash areas.

    Please update us on the progress of this initiative. Thank you.

  • Alyssa Nowl Dec 22, 2021, 5:39 PM (10 months ago)

    With regards to proposed off-leash areas, I ask that you consider people with dogs who aren’t great with all other dogs. I keep my dog leashed when we run or hike because I don’t know which dogs he’ll get along with. However, 80 per cent of people allow their dogs to run up to us and, even though they often shout, “he/she is friendly,” multiple times my on-leash dog ends up in a fight with an off-leash dog that won’t leave us alone. This resulted in a dog bite when I was 32 weeks pregnant.
    If dogs are allowed off-leash that means we won’t be allowed on-leash in these areas, which is unfair. No one will do us the courtesy of leashing or grabbing their dog as we go by if it’s sanctioned off-leash.
    It will actually be worse than the status quo. (My particular concern is for the Stawamus Dike.)

    Thanks for your consideration.

  • Marie-ève Trigg Oct 20, 2021, 7:32 PM (12 months ago)

    Hello,

    I filled out the survey and forgot one very important thing: the HOURS SUGGESTED for off-leash walks on trails are not convenient for a family who gets kids ready in the morning and get them to after-school activities, especially at this time of the year. I do not walk my dog in the trails at dawn or passed dusk... I walk on my lunch break or mid-afternoon.

    Thank you for considering this aspect carefully.

    Marie-ève

  • Rhonda O’Grady Oct 14, 2021, 3:28 PM (12 months ago)

    I’m very disappointed with the municipality’s suggestion that riparian areas along salmon spawning rivers would be a good idea to allow off leash dog parks. I’m actually flabbergasted that this was even considered. Any of the proposed off leash dog park areas that are in proximity to sensitive salmon spawning waterways such as the Stawamus River should not be recommended and shows a great disconnect between the municipality and its communities (human and more than human). Many organizations concerned with our rivers and salmon have been trying for years to encourage people to keep their dogs on leashes around our salmon spawning rivers during all times of the year. For example the, “Think Pink” campaign and the diligent, constant work by the Streamkeepers. Designating these areas near rivers as off leash parks undermines all the past work we have done to educate people about respecting our wildlife and their habitat. These riparian corridors are one of the last safe havens/habitat for wildlife. To suggest off leash parks in these areas will be detrimental to not only the salmon, their eggs and young, but also our bears, coyotes, amphibians, migratory birds, deer and so on. Please reconsider off leash dog parks in sensitive habitat and wildlife corridors. Thank you for your time.

  • Michael Coyle Oct 5, 2021, 5:38 PM (12 months ago)

    Regarding off leash area #9 Stawamus River Dyke

    I agree this section makes sense as an off leash area. I walk my dog there very often and the people waking dogs are by and large quite careful about them. It would help to have one or two more garbage cans for dog waste.

    I am concerned about the area near the beaver pond and the spawning channels. I feel like that entire area should be excluded from the off leash area and given a wide (100m) buffer.

    • Rhonda Oct 14, 2021, 3:24 PM (12 months ago)

      I too can’t believe that the municipality would suggest sensitive riparian corridors, one of the last places where wildlife can find refuge, as off leash dog areas, especially near Salmon Spawning and rearing rivers and wetlands. Many organizations concerned with the rivers and salmon have spent hours and hours trying to keep people’s dogs ON leash and out of the rivers and wetlands. I’m absolutely stunned with this suggestion. Really shows the disconnect the municipality has with the communities and our natural world. Oh brother…

  • Erin Schaber Oct 2, 2021, 11:24 AM (12 months ago)

    Could the fisherman’s park area be considered as well.

  • David J Lassmann Sep 27, 2021, 11:41 AM (12 months ago)

    The area selected for Brackendale is not of interest for dog owners. The more suitable and popular area would be Fisherman's Park.

    • Holly Oct 7, 2021, 2:01 PM (12 months ago)

      I completely agree and would like to see fisherman’s on the list. This area is my favourite for dog walks. And for dogs to swim.

  • Gord Lyster Sep 27, 2021, 9:03 AM (12 months ago)

    I think, personally, too much time and energy is being spent on something that is doomed for failure from the get go. With so much space and so many options to run your dog off leash, how many outdoor loving dog owners are going to restrict themselves to a handful of designated arenas? And, how much time, energy and cost will it take to enforce these regulations? Yes, some dogs sometimes need to be leashed and in some areas sometimes all dogs should be leased. To address these “sometimes”, education is the answer, or as the survey calls it, “dog owner responsibility”. Education in the form of constant and seasonal notices on when, where and why leashing is needed. Helping with education could include regular input from the Squamish River Watershed Society, the Squamish Trails Society and SORCA to name a few. Spend your time and energy on “dog owner responsibility” because what’s a better use of resources? Constant spaced educational reminders on the when, where and why or pay to police the multitude of dog owners taking advantage of the uncountable places to walk their dogs. To me, education has the better chance of desired outcome while dog parks only is doomed for failure.

  • Maureen Mackell Sep 25, 2021, 9:25 AM (13 months ago)

    To add to my earlier comment - education and cooperation should be the focus of this challenging issue not a restrictive plan that creates conflict and cannot be managed. The aim should be civility, helping people understand what is acceptable behaviour and what is not acceptable for a dog owner.

  • Maureen Mackell Sep 25, 2021, 8:47 AM (13 months ago)

    I suggest this plan will not meet the needs of people and dogs in this community. The plan seems near sighted and unrealistic which will likely invite an attitude of people not paying it any mind which then creates a need for increased enforcement and /or divisiveness among citizens. It seems also to disregard very important areas people and dogs are currently accessing. Thank you.

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