On any given day, BX Ranch Park is filled with happy dogs chasing after tennis balls, sniffing each other with enthusiasm, their owners chatting amiably amongst themselves.
When we first moved to Vernon a little more than two decades ago, we rented a house in the BX and I used to walk our golden retriever along BX Road, gazing longingly at the huge field that was not then open to the public but would be perfect for off-leash fun.
It was my first experience living in a rural area and I discovered that there are no streetlights in the country so I couldn’t safely walk along the street at night. I’m sure there must have been off-leash parks, but I was not aware of them.
When BX Ranch Park finally opened to the public, I recall that it was on a limited basis and most people were unaware that it was now a public park. That meant that the coyotes tended to out-number the domestic dogs and I had one memorable visit there when my dog and I were chased out of the park by a coyote, understandably annoyed by our presence.
I stopped going there two years ago when the second of our beloved dogs died. But now that we have welcomed a new canine member of the family, adopted from our wonderful neighbours, Nick and Evelyn Martelos, I have once again joined the dog park brigade and couldn’t be happier.
A few months ago, comments appeared on The Morning Star Facebook page criticizing the area for being unfriendly to dogs in response to a story we ran about local beach access.
But according to Tourism Vernon, there are 15 dog parks in the area, and two dog beaches. That’s not bad for an area this size.
I only wish the dog beaches were slightly more accessible. We took our dog to Kal Park earlier this summer, but as soon as my daughter saw the sign, “Bear in area,” that was enough to put her off proceeding down the trail to the beach.
But that is a minor complaint. Spend just a little time in the lush, cool woods of BX Ranch Park on a hot summer day and you realize how lucky we are to have this beautiful space just minutes from home.
Or try a late summer evening walk at Mutrie Road Park as the sun is setting — there are not only benches for those who need a rest, but fake fire hydrants for dogs to do what they do, not to mention plastic bag dispensers and trash bins.
I have just returned from a trip to the coast to visit my family and we took Moby with us to visit with his dachshund cousin Max, and to swim in the ocean.
One thing that struck me was not so much the number of dog parks, although there are many, but how many parks are in fact dog-friendly.
There are many little neighbourhood parks which are not off-leash but are dog-friendly, and highlighted by small but colourful purple signs that caught my eye with their humour and simplicity: “There is no such thing as a dog poo fairy. Bag it & bin it!” The words are accompanied by a picture of a rather ethereal looking fairy carrying a bag of dog poop. It seems to do the trick.
For a map of all of the dog parks in the Vernon area, see www.tourismvernon.com (click on See & Do and then Parks & Gardens).