Cat fight over Ledbury dog park ends

The city has made its decision: it’s time to put down the off-leash dog area in Ledbury Park.

Effective June 27, the city will shut it down and commence the removal of the fence.

While the decision is a doggone shame for some park users — the local dog owner’s association is appealing it — neighbours who once could only agree to disagree are tossing Councillor Karen Stintz and general manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation Brenda Patterson a bone.

The members of residents’ group Save Ledbury Park Group worked like dogs to keep the off-leash area in its current location, but are pleased that the city will be putting money into expanding and landscaping four other off-leash areas in North York, including Woburn Park, which is only three blocks south of Ledbury Park.

“While I would have preferred for the park to stay where it is, I’m very happy with the choice to put money into the other existing dog parks,” said Jennifer Gould, chair of Save Ledbury Park. “I think it’s an incredibly positive solution.”

Residents who attended a community meeting in late May, received a letter on June 13 from Patterson, announcing their decision to close the park, while reminding members of the community that three new off-leash areas are in the works for 2011: Yonge and York Mills Road, Earl Bales Park and G. Ross Lord Park.

Gould says Woburn Park is a fair compromise because it is not located near any residential properties, adding most of the people who use Ledbury’s dog park drive from out of the neighbourhood anyway. Having it at Woburn might shave a few minutes from their trip. But she says she can understand the attraction to Ledbury.

“People from Leaside drive out here,” Gould said. “As far as I know, we’re the only ward in all of the surrounding wards with a public swimming pool, a toboggan hill.”

Marmion Avenue resident Steven Benmore, whose home lies adjacent to the dog park, has been a prominent voice for the removal of the off-leash park since an incident in March where his nine-year-old son was bitten by a dog that was roaming off its leash outside of the fenced-in area. While he’s happy with the decision he says the call to relocate the dog park could’ve been made a lot sooner.

“Their conclusion is anti-climatic and the reason for that is based on facts that were known two or three years ago,” Benmore said.

The existing fenced-in area was established in 2009 as a pilot project for $40,000. Although the corner of the park had always been considered a dog park (it had been gifted to the city from the Lion’s Club for that purpose), there was an understanding that it may come down should there be problems, Gould said.

The residents on Melrose Avenue, whose properties abut the dog park, have been complaining from noise, smell and confrontations with dog owners.

It proved to be an irresolvable issue between park users and residents.

“We had to make a decision,” said Stintz. “Is the park better served with an off-leash area or not? The decision was to not have a closed-off area in Ledbury Park.”

The Ward 16 councillor said that by-law officers will be present to help transition the community and to remind people of the $150 fine for letting your dog off-leash.