Off-leash enforcement is being suspended at a Vernon park pending an environmental assessment. (File photo)

City temporarily suspends off-leash enforcement at Vernon park

Owner can let dogs run off-leash in select area of Marshall Field pending enviromental assessment

Dog owners can let their pooches run free in a select area of Marshall Field for the time being.

Vernon council voted by a margin of 4-3, following a 25-minute discussion, on an amended motion put forward by Coun. Scott Anderson to suspend enforcement of dogs off-leash in an area between the playing fields and Vernon Creek until an environmental assessment of the area is done.

The area is currently on-leash only. Dog owners still may not allow their dogs to run off-leash on any of the playing fields or the disc golf course near the Lakers clubhouse.

Parks planner Susan Abbott told council an environmental assessment, “could be done within several months, but the best time to do it is in June.”

“I would hate to see this drag on indefinitely,” said Anderson.

Two petitions have been presented to council calling for the city to consider an off-leash area at Marshall Field. North Okanagan Youth Soccer Association will be presenting a counter-petition to the request in the coming weeks.

RELATED: Dog owners call for off-leash area at popular Vernon sports facility

“By suspending enforcement…you’ll have more issues than you have now,” said Coun. Akbal Mund, opposed to the amendment along with Couns. Kari Gares and Kelly Fehr. “People will think the whole area is off-leash, which is not the case.”

Coun. Dalvir Nahal said dogs should be allowed everywhere after she was sent a picture of more than 100 geese on the playing fields.

“The dogs would at least chase them away,” said Nahal. “I can’t even imagine the mess that was left behind.”

Mund pointed out that two people were bitten by dogs off-leash on the Okanagan Rail Trail in 2018, an amenity that is on-leash only.

“If we suspend enforcement, that will tell everybody ‘do as you please,’” he said.

Coun. Brian Quiring said an environmental assessment will tell council something that’s already known, that a species of spadefoot toads are in the area and if a dog steps on one, “it’s going to do some damage.”

“We all know it’s an environmentally sensitive area, we’ll get a report back that verifies that,” said Quiring.

RELATED: LETTER: Off-leash area at Vernon park threatens birds

Mayor Victor Cumming said a previous report done on earlier work that took place at Marshall Field showed the toad area is currently around the ponds at the disc golf course.

“That’s the key location, not in the rock area used for flood control, in terms of earlier work,” said Cumming.

Council unanimously authorized spending up to $6,000 for an environmental assessment of Marshall Field, and to have staff prepare options for considering an off-leash dog area after consultation with user groups and assessing the current amenities.

One option talked about is fencing an area between the playing fields and creek.

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