No doubt many local canines were jumping, yipping and barking with joy at Millet town council’s proposed off-leash area at Pipestone Park. However, the dogs will have to wait a bit as council voted to table the idea during their regular council meeting Jan. 11.
Mayor Tony Wadsworth noted the proposed park has passed first reading, meaning it was publically advertised and has become public information.
Several local citizens wanted to speak to council about the proposed off-leash area. Lindsay Whalen was the first to speak; she said, as a dog owner, she thought it was a great idea. “I think that you guys have done a really job of putting it together,” she said. “I would love to have this.” She noted that she’s aware of some opposition, and suggested a schedule of when the off-leash area is open and when it’s not.
Resident T.J. Wadsworth spoke next; he stated he’s not a dog owner, feels the idea is a good one but had issues with the proposed location. “I’ve been using that space ever since I was a kid,” said T.J. He stated having dogs off-leash in the proposed area might scare people away from using Pipestone Park. He noted loose dogs might cause trouble at the nearby soccer fields.
T.J. suggested a parcel of land nearby that was already mostly fenced.
Resident Tobi Sawula spoke next; she said as a dog owner the park idea was great. “I think having an off-leash park is fantastic,” said Sawula.
Sawula liked T.J.’s idea of the second, fenced parcel and noted that parcel also has some natural barriers. Sawula said an off-leash park is not only a great place for canines to socialize, but for dog owners to chat too. As for uncontrolled dogs, Sawula said the park isn’t intended for them. “Someone whose dog isn’t going to listen to them probably shouldn’t be at the dog park anyway,” she said.
Mayor Wadsworth interjected at this point. He said he did some research, and he said the smallest place in Alberta to have an off-leash park is Cochrane, a city near Calgary. Millet would be by far the smallest place in Alberta top have a park. “I see this as very forward-thinking,” said the mayor.
Councilor Carol Sadoroszney noted she’s visited a lot of off-leash parks across the country, and they are very popular. Some are located even in urban areas.
The last person to speak was Jane McDonald, a dog owner. Even though she said she probably wouldn’t use the park, she supported it. “I love the idea of having a dog park available,” said McDonald.
However, McDonald also disliked the proposed site. She said T.J.’s suggestion of a disused area was better as an off-leash park in a multi-use area was too difficult. She stated unwanted dog doo, dogs that shouldn’t be at the off-leash park could both be problems.
The town also received letters about the proposed park from residents who couldn’t attend the meeting, including one objection to the park.
Councilors later debated the proposal. Councilor Pat Garrett saw the benefit of T.J.’s suggestion. “I agree with moving it,” said Garrett. “I think we need an area that’s fenced.”
Sadoroszney agreed, saying “I like the idea of it…being to the right of the bridge. It’s a bit larger area too.”
CAO Teri Pelletier reminded councilors that their original instructions included finding a suitable spot for the off-leash park that would also be “zero cost,” meaning the town could offer the park for little or no cost. T.J.’s suggestion could require more fencing and a proper entrance, costing $10,000 as a ballpark estimate. The original site, which is not currently fenced, could cost $20,000 or more to secure.
Mayor Wadsworth said he would prefer a fenced site, as liability concerned him.
Councilor Vicki Pyle said she felt the concerns about too many people might be unwarranted, as she often uses the walking trails and doesn’t see a lot of people there. She also stated T.J.’s proposed location is not lawn but rather more like pasture, with a cliff in there too. She also noted the second location has no emergency access, plus the cost of fencing was not part of the original idea. “That’s a very expensive solution,” said Pyle.
Pyle said she felt the original proposal, perhaps with a dogs/no dogs schedule, was the way to go.
The mayor noted it’s impossible to please everyone, and no proposal will please everyone. Council agreed to table the idea until the Feb. 22 council meeting, allowing staff to look into issues raised about both sites.