By Joel Wittnebel/The Wittnebel
The Harmony Valley dog park is hound heaven – 25 acres of open fields, trails, trees and sticks, complete with enough things to sniff until the cats come home.
However, for some of the city’s dog owners, the north end location is just plain inaccessible, and now local residents are calling on council to move forward with finding a second location, preferably in the south end.
According to the city’s Parks, Recreation, Library and Culture Facilities Needs Assessment, there has been a need for a second dog park in Oshawa for some time. One of the report’s recommendations, approved in November 2015, is for the city to look into securing a second site for an off-leash park along with examining expanding the north portion of Harmony Valley.
Christine MacLean, in a letter to the community services committee, says she believes the park should be located in the city’s south end, and she’s currently in the process of gathering support and resources to make that happen.
It is something Councillor Amy McQuaid-England says she has been pushing for some time as issues with transportation can keep many dog owners from travelling to the north end park. The need for a south-end park was also identified by the Oshawa Durham Area Walkers Group (ODAWG) during the consultation process for the needs assessment. ODAWG operates and maintains the Harmony Valley Park.
“I raised these concerns before and I think it’s really important that when staff come back, there is an option for a dog park within the south end,” McQuaid-England says.
And the desire is there, not just for the south end.
According to numbers from the city, 22 per cent of respondants to a poll said they had used a dog park in the last year. Also, 44 per cent of them supported additional funding for these types of areas, although it was ranked 15th in terms of high priority items out of 21.
In terms of a new park location, other councillors had some suggestions as well with Councillor Rick Kerr pointing to similar practices in Toronto where the city has smaller, fenced-in locations within the city.
“It doesn’t have to be very big – the dogs play and have a blast,” he said. “It still remains a possibility if we have excessive growth in the north end.”
For Councillor John Aker, he suggested using an already existing partnership to the city’s advantage, suggesting staff should look into possibilities within Camp Samac.
“The area is so big, you may not have to do any fencing,” he said. “It’s ideally located and it’s under-utilized.”
Regardless of the location, the needs assessment states cities generally deal with new parks on a case-by-case basis, and there must also be willingness from the community to assist. Mayor John Henry says that is one of the big reasons the Harmony Valley park is so successful.
“(It) works well because we have a great group of dedicated volunteers,” he says. “Without a similar plan or operation policy similar to what we have at the existing park, we could be doomed for failure here.”
No timeline was provided for when a decision would be made or a recommendation would come forward for a new dog park location.