For many residents of Ledbury Park, Jackie Marshall is like a dog with a bone.
She won’t let go because she’s sick of the off-leash dog area in the neighbourhood’s eponymous park and all the trouble she says it brings to the community.
The debate on whether the dog park should be moved to the heart of the park, made smaller or removed completely, has, in Marshall’s view, created a toxic environment in the quiet, affluent neighbourhood.
“This has caused such divisiveness, so much distrust and anger,” Marshall said. “This is not what community is about.”
Specifically, it’s creating animosity between two streets: Melrose and Marmion avenues. The five houses on Melrose that back on to the current off-leash dog park oppose its remaining where it is, while the residents of Marmion, who face the L-shaped park, want it to stay put, but propose it be shortened and a sound barrier erected.
Because neither side is happy with the city’s plan, which places the dog-park in prime turf area, a community meeting has been set for May 26 at 7 p.m. at Ledbury Elementary and Middle School.
“The city says that if they can’t find a resolution they will shut down the (dog) park,” said Ed Hertzman, resident on Marmion Avenue and member of the Save Ledbury Park Resident Group.
The group’s proposal is to keep it in its current spot but shrink the area down from 2,100 square metres to 1,500 square metres. That way, Hertzman says, it wouldn’t encroach on property lines while keeping the dog area far away from where kids play as well as the path/walkway they use to get to the school.
“To walk past that off-leash dog area three or four times a day would be traumatizing,” Hertzman said.
Marshall thinks that the off-leash area has caused the neighbourhood too many problems including traffic from dog-owners from outside the community.
People also let their dogs roam off their leashes before entering the fenced-in area, which has had potentially dangerous consequences for her family.
About five weeks ago, her son Jonah, 9, was bitten by a dog whose owner let it roam around outside the designated area.
And the city might be breaking its own rules regarding off-leash dog areas if its proposal goes through.
It’s against policy to install an off-leash park if it would eliminate all traditional activities that occur in that area. Currently, that field is used by the community for sports and is near a toboggan hill.
Ward 16 councillor Karen Stintz says the city’s proposal does conform to policy, pointing out that the new area is equidistant from all traditional play areas.
“(Save Ledbury Park’s) proposal has been looked at by parks staff and it is not considered a viable alternative,” Stintz said. “It would create wasted space that we can’t maintain as a city. It would create space in park that can’t be used or maintained.
“It’s still two meters from people’s homes,” Stintz added.
Hertzman and Marshall both have a bone to pick with councillor Stintz, who they both says she’s been uncooperative, perhaps the one area where they are in agreement. They don’t feel that Stintz’s compromise is tone deaf to their concerns.
“I would plead with (Stintz’s executive assistant), ‘Why don’t you meet me or someone who represents our position,’” Hertzman said.
Likewise, Marshall says that Stintz has made a weak effort to hear her out.
“She’s been completely unresponsive to our emails, to our efforts,” Marshall said. “I thought the needs and interests of the community take precedent over the rights and needs of dogs.”
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