'Visually, it's not nicer': Edmonton residents fighting new fence around dog park

A petition is circulating in south Edmonton to stop a fence from being erected around a popular off-leash area, with some residents arguing the project is unnecessary, will be ugly and could hurt resale values.

At least 700 people have signed their objection to proposed changes at the Bearspaw Off-Leash Area, critics told CTV News Edmonton Wednesday night.

The plan could see fences built, signage added and new waste receptacles installed in the open green space near 109 Street and 11 Avenue.

"The fact is it's not gonna be very appealing and it's going to decrease our housing values," argued resident Shirley Labelle. "Most people want to be away from everybody when they walk their dogs. They don't want to be penned in."

Labelle was collecting signatures Wednesday outside of a town hall gathering at the Yellowbird East Community League. The meeting was not specifically about the fence, but many turned up to voice their opposition to it.

"We will work together and continue to address this," Ward Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi Coun. Jennifer Rice told the crowd.

"I was in the park yesterday and I talked to the people walking their dogs. Only two people told me they were in favour and the rest said no."

The city has extended a public survey on the matter until May 11 in response to the backlash.

"We're not saying that a cookie-cutter approach works for every off-leash area. We are hearing what you're saying and we're not saying that any design decisions have been made right now," Parks Program Coordinator Beckie Boutilier told the crowd.

The project is part of the city's "Dogs in Open Spaces Strategy," which recommends fences. That plan aims to "reduce conflicts" by adding barriers between off-leash areas and nearby pathways and playgrounds, and encourage people to clean up after their pets by providing bags and bins.

"We have had a fair number of citizen complaints about (the off-leash area) not being fenced and about dogs going down into the ravine," Boutilier said before being briefly drowned out by unhappy residents.

The Keheewin Off-Leash Area, a greenspace that runs down a pipeline corridor northeast of the Bearspaw area, would be left without a fence. But some want the city to leave the whole area as it is.

"We don't want it. First of all, it's way smaller than the park we currently have. This limits the size. Visually it's not nicer," said resident Melanie Collins.

Collins uses the greenspace twice a day with her dog and said any problems are worked out naturally.

"We tend to have on average, with a lot of experience at this park and other parks, way better behaved dogs, way better behaved owners because there is no fencing," Collins said.

"So people don't bring their dogs if they haven't trained them. Some do, but they don't come back, because their dog ran into the road or whatever."

The city says the results of the survey "will help advise" the project's design.