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Burlington’s Central Park not suited for leash free activities

Leash Free at Burlington's Central ParkOver the past year, our community has been engaged in a discussion about the potential for leash free times in Central Park. City staff reviewed the feasibility of Central Park as a potential pilot project for an Alternative Time-Based Leash Free Area (ATLF), using already established city criteria, and taking into consideration public input received on this proposed pilot via email and at the public meeting in June 2012.

Based on this review, it is staff’s opinion that Central Park is not a suitable location to conduct a pilot leash-free area. A summary of staff comments regarding Central Park is below.

In addition to Central Park, staff undertook a high level analysis of the entire parks inventory to identify potential leash-free areas. Of the 121 parks owned or managed by the city, 10 have been identified as potential sites if the community comes forward with a request. There are two in Ward 2: Leighland Park and Queensway Park. The full list is below.

Staff are presenting their report to the City’s Community Services Committee next week, Dec 5, 6:30pm, at City Hall. Residents can attend to speak to the report by registering with the Clerk’s Department before noon the day of the meeting by phone at 905-335-7600, extension 7855, or by registering online here.

Summary of Staff Comments

The full staff report and appendices are available online here.

In consultation with me, Central Park was selected for consideration as a pilot ATLF project. Other councillors whose wards include south Burlington were polled and were satisfied to use Central Park as a primary focus in order to gage public opinion on ATLF areas.

Central Park is a complex site containing the following facilities:

• 6 sport fields

• 9 buildings (Central Library, Central Arena, Rotary Youth Centre, Seniors Centre Curling Club, Lawn Bowling Club, Tennis Club, Drury Lane Theatre and Music/Theatre Center)

• 2 Children’s playgrounds

• Community Garden

• Rotary Memorial Forrest

• Labyrinth

• Rose garden

Staff reviewed the feasibility of Central Park in context to the criteria and exclusion areas identified within this report as well as with consideration of the public input received on this proposed pilot which is outlined in the communications section of the report. Based on this review, it is staff’s opinion that Central Park is not a suitable location to conduct a pilot ATLF area.

Leash Free Exclusion Areas

A review of area municipalities found that each community had specific areas where leash free was excluded. The following are common exclusions that emerged:

• Playgrounds, splash pads and wading pools

• On or adjacent to school grounds

• Horticultural display areas, community gardens

• Skateboard bowls, tennis courts and other sport pads

• Sport fields and stadiums

• Artificial or natural ice rinks, toboggan hills

• Designated memorial, heritage, commemorative and ceremonial areas

• Swimming beaches

• Municipal golf course

• Natural Environmental Areas

o ESA’s, ravines and natural features protected by provincial regional regulations

o Natural shorelines with native vegetation

o Areas containing species of concern, locally or regionally rare, threatened, or endangered

o Fragmentation of natural areas

Process to Consider Leash Free Areas

The process includes the following steps:
• Residents, members of Council or staff forward requests to Parks & Recreation/ Parks & Open Space staff for a new leash free area,

• The ward Councillor is made aware of the request for a leash free area in a specific park

• Considering the approved criteria, staff will perform an analysis of the site and provide recommendation ( in consultation with the Ward Councillor) on moving forward to public consultation

• If the analysis doesn’t support a leash free area in the requested park, staff informs the person requesting the leash free area the rationale for not moving forward.

• If there is support in moving forward, public consultation is arranged and conducted

• Staff report to Community Services Committee on results of the public consultation and provide recommendations on moving forward

• If approved, a site specific by-law is brought forward to allow for exemptions to current animal control by-laws

Approved Leash Free Criteria

The following is leash free criteria used to evaluate requests:

• Parks must be within the City of Burlington Boundaries

• 0.30 ha minimum size

• All Leash Free Parks must be enclosed with permanent fencing, which the City will provide as part of the budget process

• An assessment will be made to whether parking will be required at a proposed leash free site, based on the size of the leash free area, location and any disruption to park function. No parking required for walk-to leash free parks.

• A significant barrier must exist between leash free parks and the following facilities: children’s playgrounds, splash pads, sport fields, waterfront, cemeteries and residential housing. No leash free parks to be located beside schools or in the City’s Waterfront Parks.

• Area must be accessible to public for year-round use.

• No Community Group required.

My Take: I know a number of residents will be disappointed with the recommendation, as they were hoping for some accommodation for leash free activity in Central Park. However, I agree with staff that there is too much activity in the park and potential for conflict with other users. I did hear from many residents who have already have negative experiences with dogs off-leash in Central. There are two other parks in Ward 2 where there is potential for leash free activity and I will work with those residents should they be interested in proceeding with a leash free area.

Your View: Do you want a leash-free area in Ward 2, and where would you put it? Let me know your thoughts at

Burlington's Central Park not suited for dog leash free activities
Article Name
Burlington's Central Park not suited for dog leash free activities
There are two other parks in Ward 2 where there is potential for leash free activity and I'll work with those residents should they be interested

Written by Marianne Meed Ward

I was inspired to seek public office because I believe, like so many of you, “I can do something about that” on the issues we face. As councilor, my role is to take a stand on what’s best for residents and go to bat for it. Pushback is inevitable from those who don’t have the community’s interests at heart. I will stand with you and for you, to achieve the best interests of our city, without caving to unacceptable compromise in the name of consensus.

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