Tomorrow is the last day to get your comments to Simon Belanger-Hebert. You can email him at this address: Simon.Belanger-Hebert@ottawa.ca (it would probably also make sense to CC the local counciller-Mark Taylor (email@example.com)
I have been at Westwood Park twice this weekend. Once during the Ottawa Royals end of year tournament with my kids (the Ottawa Royals are heavy users of the park–I don’t believe they have complained about the current designation). And then today with my dog and two children–thinking about how they’ve never been threatened by a dog here.
I truly believe it would be a shame to change this designation for this park, especially when there are so many parks that have “no dogs” desgnations nearby. Very close Woodroffe park has all the swing-sets and playstructures you could ever want for children.
Anyhow, here is the letter that we wrote to Simon (including a link to the Ottawa dog-in-park designation policy). I hope that other dog-lovers take the time to write Simon a letter of support for keeping the park designation the same.
We have both a dog and two children and use the park frequently; and at no time, have we experienced any negative incidences. When we first heard about the petition to change the status of the park, we did a little bit of investigating into how these designations are assigned. Based on the Dogs-In-Parks Designation Policy ( http://ottawa.ca/en/rec_culture/park_facility/parks/dogs/dogs_policy/index.htm ), we are even more convinced that Westwood Park should remain an off-leash park. There are no play structures or wading/splash pads for children, it is not beside schools or community centres, it doesn’t have picnic tables, nor does it have any lighted sports fields. It does provide a reasonable space for dog owners to exercise their dogs, and is very well used by dog owners, particular in the early morning hours or after work (if there are no sports events taking place – there is an unlit baseball field and the grassed area is used for little league soccer).
Nicola Crawhill makes the allegation that children are frightened of being in Westwood Park – we strongly doubt this, as we have seen families with children in the park exercising their dogs. If there are not an over-abundance of children at the park, it is likely due to the fact that there are more suitable parks for children to play in (which are only a few blocks from Westwood Park), including Woodroffe Park, McKellar Park and Tillbury Park. Each of these parks has a dogs-on-leash or no dogs allowed policy. A community needs to provide spaces for all types of people to enjoy, and our community has many parks designed for children to play in – if the status of Westwood park is changed, our community will have no place for local residents to exercise their dogs off leash.
Further, the fact that some dogs have run into the backyards of people living adjacent to the park is in no way a good policy reason to change the designation of the park. They should invest in a fence if this presents a problem. But we highly doubt again, that this is a serious problem that would require a change in the park’s designation to on-leash. We urge the City to do some evidence gathering – look at who uses the park consider whether an off-leash park presents any danger to the safety of residents. We think you’ll find, as we have in the past six years, that people and dogs can co-exist quite happily. The park is already a wonderful part of our community, as are the other parks in the neighbourhood, all of which can accommodate children. Please let us continue to enjoy this park with our dog and our two children.