A consensus is emerging for the location of a leash-free dog park in Port Dover.
The major question outstanding is when does Norfolk County move to make the facility a reality?
The stars are aligning for a dog park in Port Dover sooner rather than later.
Norfolk council heard on Oct. 12 that demand is strong, a ready-made location is available, and many petitioning for a park are prepared to pay a fee for care and upkeep.
“Port Dover has a lot of dogs,” Ann L’Ecuyer-Musselman, spokesperson for interested dog owners, told council.
“Since last year, there seems to be a real increase in the number of canines in town. It would be nice to have a place where residents could take their dogs, let them off their leash, and not interrupt other peoples’ lives or other parks.”
L’Ecuyer-Musselman was speaking during a meeting of council’s budget committee. Council has approved a dog park in Port Dover in principle. However, it has been penciled into the county’s capital budget for 2029. The dog lobby in Port Dover wants this moved up to 2022.
Bill Cridland, Norfolk’s general manager of operations, said the former Doverwood Public School has emerged as a leading contender for a dog park. Norfolk County bought the former school grounds on Highway 6 east of the lift bridge nearly 10 years ago for a potential expansion of Norfolk’s wastewater treatment plant nearby.
Cridland noted that half the fencing needed for an enclosed park is in place. There are also ample parking and washroom facilities nearby. As such, Cridland says the $29,000 estimated cost will likely be lower if a park is established in this location.
“It’s one of the better spots,” Cridland said. “There are no residents nearby. Staff are leaning toward this property. Staff is here to back the group. We think this is a good location.”
Council heard that an online petition in favour of a dog park has attracted 461 signatures. Dog parks have been established in Simcoe and Waterford but many in Port Dover believe this should be a local resource for communities that warrant it.
“Why should people in Port Dover have to drive to Simcoe if they want to walk their dog in a dog park?” Pam Chiotti, owner of Hello Doggy! Dog Grooming and Dog Sitting in Port Dover, said at her place of business on Market Street East Tuesday morning.
“We’re senior citizens now. Why should we have to drive?”
County staff have also penciled in a leash-free dog park for Delhi in 2029. Cridland said there is no specific reason why Delhi and Port Rowan are not part of the discussion other than little to no interest has been expressed in these communities.
Cridland added fencing off a leash-free compound at the former Doverwood Public School will not interfere with the Port Dover Kinsmen and the on-site camping they offer during Friday the 13th motorcycle rallies. Cridland said gates can be installed in the new fencing to allow people, motorcycles and equipment such as lawn mowers in and out.
Council directed Cridland to prepare a report on the proposal. It will be presented to the budget committee at an upcoming meeting. Norfolk council will set its consolidated operating budget for 2022 in January.