City council and Vernon Baseball Association have struck out with city dog walkers.
Close to 30 residents – at least eight with dogs – showed up at Vernon City Hall Monday afternoon, June 19, to protest council’s decision on June 12, to erect a $45,000 fence at Marshall Field in Okanagan Landing to segregate dog walkers from baseball players and spectator’s behind the sports facility’s two fenced diamonds, which takes away land from the off-leash dog park.
Vernon Baseball agreed to contribute $10,000 toward the fence.
“We feel completely ignored and we use the park more than anybody else, 365 days a year,” said protest organizer Ross Fedy, pointing out to the crowd that there are “more than 100 doggy owners visiting every day of the year.
“We use the park all day, four seasons of the year, rain or shine. The doggy park doubles as a social, physical and wellness support for kids, families, and seniors.”
“And dogs,” yelled out one protester.
Fedy said the dog walkers and dog owners are self-regulatory at Marshall Field. If their animal poops, they pick it up, he said. If dog owners misbehave, the owners monitor the situation themselves.
“We don’t need intervention,” said Fedy.
One woman said the new fence will take away the entire flat part of the dog park, which is where seniors walk their dogs.
“You’re asking us to walk in a field full of holes,” said the woman, who also said the park is more than just taking dogs for walk off-leash. It’s a social event.
“We go there, we look after each other, we’re concerned for each other. People have been injured, we’ve helped them. For a lot of people (walking the dog) is their only social engagement of the day. To take that away from people seems unnecessary.”
Fedy said the dog walkers want to be heard by both council and baseball.
“Nobody has listened,” he said. “Nobody has any interest in the political angle of it. We want to be part of any proposals that impact the doggy park…We want to be in collaboration with baseball and the city to come up with a win-win situation.”
Fedy suggested the city spend anywhere from $20 to $70 on signs to be posted near the ball diamonds. The signs would read: “Courtesy Notice: Please ensure your dog is on-leash proximate to the baseball field when ball games are in play,” which drew a round of applause.
“There’s hundreds of ideas,” he said.
Mayor Victor Cumming – who, along with Coun. Brian Guy voted against erecting the new fence – attended a portion of the protest. He told the gathering council has the flexibility to bring the fence issue back to the table.
“We’ll see if someone does,” he said. “The mayor can bring anything back.”
Council’s next regular meeting is June 26.