By ROY WOOD
Despite a last minute-plea from a local dog owner, Oliver council went ahead Monday with closure of the off-leash area at the town ball diamonds except for early morning hours.
The amendment to the town’s animal control bylaw will see the creation of a new off-leash area at the north end of Lions Park. Access to the ball diamond dog park will be restricted to between 6 and 9 a.m.
Council agreed to the new arrangement last month after Parks and Rec manager Carol Sheridan outlined the plan and said work would begin this month at the Lions Park site. Council gave the first three readings to the bylaw amendment at the August 14 meeting.
Dog owner Dave Evenson appeared before a Monday afternoon council committee meeting, suggesting that members of council may not have had all the facts council.
He told councillors that many dog owners are unable to take advantage of the early morning access to the ball diamond area because of health or other personal issues.
He also pointed out that many owners, particularly seniors, would be uncomfortable with the Lions Park location, which is a spring and summer gathering spot for seasonal agricultural workers. “I’m sure that (the pickers) would just put their dogs in the fenced area and leave them there.”
Evenson added that reports of problems at the ball diamond site, — owners not cleaning up dog feces and the dogs digging holes – are “grossly exaggerated.”
Several members of council mentioned that the town has a liberal animal control policy that allows dogs off leash at the ends of roads that terminate at Tuc el Nuit Lake, the hike and bike trail south of Fairview Road as well as the ball diamonds in the early morning.
In the end, council voted unanimously to pass the bylaw amendment.
Contacted after the vote, Evenson said, “I guess I could see that one coming.”
He said his concern is as much with the process as the result.
He said that if council had is council had taken a little more time and passed the three readings of the amendment at consecutive meetings rather than all at once, dog owners would have had a chance to respond.
As well, Evenson pointed out, the entire process took place while the ball diamond off-leash area was closed to dogs because of the annual rental of the diamond complex to a baseball camp. As a result, dog owners were not able to discuss the issue and share information among themselves.
“It was ideal timing (by council) for not getting feedback from the people,” he said.