Fido barred from Sunnyside Beach come spring

Pooches will soon be forbidden for part of the year at Sunnyside Beach — even if they’re on a leash.

Currently, residents can walk their dogs on-leash all year at the west end beachfront.

City council, acting on a staff recommendation that on-leash access at this local beach be restricted to winter months only, approved the new policy on Oct. 27.

Dogs will be banned from Sunnyside Beach in the spring, summer and part of the fall, effective April 1. Under the proposed policy, dogs would be allowed on-leash only between Nov. 1 and March 31.

Parkdale-High Park councillor Bill Saundercook vowed to contest any further changes limiting access for dogs at Sunnyside Beach.

“I’ll be fighting staff against a ban on dogs during the summer months at Sunnyside,” he said Oct. 20.

He didn’t succeed.

Parks staff said limiting access for pooches will improve the beach’s water quality.

But Saundercook argued any issues of pollution at Sunnyside stem from geese droppings not from dog poop.

City staff did tell the parks committee that dog excrement on the beach can get washed into lake during storms, but it’s not the leading cause of pollution.

They say wildlife defecating in the water, untreated sewage discharged into the lake, storm water run-off and pollution from rivers were higher on the list of problems.

“There are five or 10 things we should be doing,” Saundercook said. “Just banning dogs isn’t the solution.”

One potential solution in place now is a $1-million pilot project implemented in summer that involves portioning off a swimming section at Sunnyside with an enclosure.

Since 2005, the water quality record at this lakeshore beach has been spotty. Based on Toronto water department tests for E. coli levels at Sunnyside, between 2005–2008, the city’s health department recommended against swimming 36–69 percent of the time.

The city recommends against swimming when it finds E. coli counts greater than 100 per 100 millilitres of water during daily summer testing.

The 2009 statistics for Sunnyside haven’t been tallied yet, but a sampling of water quality showed varied levels of E. coli.

The Sunnyside enclosure was tested separately to see how effective it is in improving swimming conditions. On Aug. 29, 803 E. coli per 100 millilitres of water was recorded at the enclosure. On Sept. 4, the E. coli count was down to just 11.

Whatever gets decided for Sunnyside, dog owners aren’t without options for their animals.

There’s an off-leash area in High Park where dogs can run free without hassle. But Dog Hill, as it’s known, could soon be overrun with canines.

“We are concerned that any restrictions at Sunnyside would force High Park to be more used and that’s more wear and tear on our resources,” said High Park K9 Committee co-chair John Cleary.

Meanwhile, the eastern beaches are getting different treatment.

Councillor Sandra Bussin was able to get an exception for Kew-Balmy and Woodbine beaches to allow off-leash dog access in the winter.

About this article:

By: Kris Scheuer
Posted: Oct 28 2009 12:18 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto