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Vernon Baseball pitches safety concerns in fence issue at field

VBA head says organization has been tracking ‘increasingly rapid’ rate of incidents vs dogs in 2023

Vernon Baseball Association (VBA) insists it never wanted a Yankees vs Red Sox-type rivalry with local dog owners.

The organization that oversees minor baseball has come under fire, along with the City of Vernon, for a planned fence to be erected behind the two Marshall Field ball diamonds that will cut into the off-leash dog park at the field.

A protest Monday, June 19, from upset dog walkers and owners drew about 30 people and eight dogs to Vernon City Hall.

“This was never intended to be an us versus them issue,” said Vernon Baseball president Michael Sanfillipo. “Many of us baseball folks are also dog owners. Ninety-nine per cent of all dogs and dog owners are great and responsible, but the current situation allows for the risk of a serious situation and injury to occur.”

Sanfillipo said since the Marshall Field dog park became an off-leash dog park approximately six years ago, sports enthusiasts, he said, have had “several unpleasant and unsafe interactions with dogs.”

Soccer fields at Marshall Field, he said, were fenced to separate the off-leash dog park from the fields in 2019.

Council voted 5-2 to erect a $45,000 fence that would segregate ball players and spectators from dog walkers, and the VBA will contribute $10,000. Dog walkers are upset that the proposal would put the fence in the dog park’s flat area, making it difficult for seniors to walk their pooches.

The VBA started to track incidents with dogs and dog owners in 2023, and Sanfillipo believes they are increasing at a rapid rate.

“They include countless incidents of dogs urinating on blankets, backpacks, chairs, spectators and tents,” he said. “It includes two serious incidents with dogs attacking ball players, several dogs entering the ball diamonds, dogs stealing players’ lunches, verbal abuse from a few dog owners, and ball players/spectators stepping in dog poop while walking to the field.

“Several of our participants and spectators have written and called council this year to express their concerns.”

The protesters were upset they were not consulted about the potential fence, adding they use the park “365 days a year, rain or shine.” They also said they had watched baseball spectators let their dogs roam free off-leash and not pick up after the animals.

Vernon Baseball believes the issue at hand is about safety of off-leash dogs interacting with kids and spectators.

“We feel that by carving out a very small portion of the space we can properly address that risk,” he said. “Like most other parks and fields in Vernon, the area around the Marshall Field ball diamonds will still allow dogs but they would have to be on-leash.

“As with any problem that Vernon Baseball has encountered with the city since my involvement we have not only provided suggested solutions but funds to assist in executing,” said Sanfillipo.” We have worked with staff and council to try and find the best long-term solution for the entire community and will continue to do so.”

Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming was at Monday’s protest briefly. He told protesters any issue could be brought back to council.

The next regular meeting is Monday, June 26.

READ MORE: Dog walkers cry foul over fence at Vernon park

READ MORE: Vernon swings for (Marshall Field) fence in dog dilemma

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Roger Knox

About the Author: Roger Knox

I am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. I started my career in radio and have spent the last 21 years working with Black Press Media.
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