[attach]5351[/attach]Leaside dog walkers are urging residents near Sandy Bruce Park to let leashless dogs lie.
Residents like Ken Lum, who lives on the same street as the park on Leadale Avenue, said the off-leash dog park has some homeowners barking mad.
“It’s a very emotional issue for both the property owners and the dog owners,” he said. “It’s basically pulling our neighbourhood apart.”
The big issue is the traffic and gridlock the off-leash area has caused on Leadale Avenue, near Bayview and Moore avenues.
“Ever since they put the dog park in place, there’s been a dramatic increase in the traffic, and we’re thinking it’s from outside the area,” Lum said. “This used to be a perfect street for kids to play ball hockey in … but with the increase in traffic, it’s very difficult for them to do that.”
Lum said he has seen dog owners blocking driveways, parking near fire hydrants and at the end of the street.
“We’ve had cases in the past where people have parked over on our driveway side and also at the end of the street,” Lum said. “It makes it difficult for the house at the end of the street to leave their driveway.”
On a Friday afternoon, a Town Crier reporter did not have difficulty finding parking but did note heavy traffic on the street near the dog park.
Lum also has issues with noise, saying he has heard dogs barking before the designated allowed time of 7 a.m.
He has spoken with his local councillor, attended community consultation meetings and talked with the city’s parks department regarding his concerns.
Ward 26 councillor John Parker said residents are upset dog walkers from outside Leaside are taking advantage of the park.
“They don’t object, by and large, to their own neighbours bringing their dogs,” he said, “But they feel that having the off-leash park makes their area a magnet for people from surrounding areas.”
But the park is also well used by Leasiders.
While Melanie Reiffenstein lives closer to Trace Manes Park she walks or drives to Sandy Bruce Park because it’s the nearest space with an off-leash dog area.
“There’s nothing else like it in Leaside, there really isn’t any other option for off-leash to go to,” she said. “Just having that safe space to go to is really nice for Leasiders. And a lot of us are dog owners.”
The other closest off-leash dog area is at the Don Valley Brick Works at 550 Bayview Ave.
Reiffenstein has been attending Sandy Bruce Park for just over a year. She enjoys it almost as much as her Ganaraskan pup, Albus.
“It’s become like our second backyard,” she said.
She said the park brings the community closer together and helps her get to know her neighbours. She frequently discusses with other dog walkers what their pooch’s favourite food is, and what local veterinarians are recommending.
“It’s really sort of like a forum that doesn’t exist anymore,” she said.
Parker sympathizes with both those who support the off-leash dog area and those against it. He said he appreciates dog walkers because they reduce crime by adding eyes to the street, but understands the frustration of those who feel the walkers have invaded their neighbourhood.
But he said he believes it’s the minority of dog owners that cause issues in the neighbourhood.
“Most of them are considerate in the way they drive, in the way they park, and in the way they manage their dogs,” Parker said. “But not all of them are … It’s the classic story of a few bad apples spoiling the barrel.”
Parker believes residents need more options so they don’t all pack into one park.
“The best resolution that I see is to have more off-leash areas scattered in more communities across the city,” he said.
For Lum, the size of the off-leash area has affected his enjoyment of the park, and he says his kids can no longer play football there.
“It’s taken away from general users, like neighbourhood kids … We’re not looking at removing the (off-leash area), just making it smaller.”
The off-leash area currently occupies about 30 percent of the park.
Reiffenstein said she’s willing to compromise with nearby residents if there’s a chance of making everyone happy.
“I’d be willing to have it regulated, like no parking at certain times, or whatnot,” she said. “But to just lose the off-leash park when so many people get enjoyment out of it, would be a waste.”
The councillor has asked Toronto bylaw officers to make sure the park and the adjacent street get the attention they need.