No one should fault people who think BX Ranch Park has gone to the dogs.
Drive past the BX Road site and all you will see are dogs running around and their humans trying to keep pace.
It’s never been officially designated as a dog-only park but that is the general assumption because there is absolutely nothing else to do there.
The Regional District of North Okanagan purchased the 11-hectare site in 1995 but it has provided no infrastructure that would appeal to the broad-based community. Where is the playground? Picnic tables are virtually invisible and good luck finding a washroom.
With the exception of the occasional person wanting to stretch their legs (without a pooch), why would you go unless you are a big fan of dead grass?
The regional district is launching a process this fall to determine the future of the park, but why is this only occurring almost two decades later?
Of course RDNO isn’t the only factor involved.
The BX Community Association used to host the BX Stagecoach Stopover there years ago. The event was extremely popular as local residents gathered to celebrate their community’s identity and its role in our local heritage.
But ultimately, Stopover ceased and the general public forgot about the park. Indifference led to it being turned over to canine enthusiasts.
The association is now trying to reestablish a presence.
“We want to get it back to a people park,” said Terry Slobodin, a board member.
To reinforce its efforts, the association has been surveying people to see how they want the park to develop, or at least what they would tolerate.
Hands-down, the majority of the respondents want off-the-leash access for dogs to continue and they don’t want a smaller, fenced area for dogs. There was strong support for washrooms, garbage cans and picnic tables, and weaker support for a playground and an open air shelter.
There are lots who like the idea of special events, but there is also a considerable group who are opposed.
Slobodin insists the association is not anti-dog.
“We’re trying to accommodate everyone within reason,” she said.
That’s a good sentiment and pet owners must understand that BX Ranch Park is owned by the public.
Given that there are 11 hectares, there is ample room for dogs to roam and have a separate area for picnics, special events and children. Mixed uses could lead to conflicts between people and animals but those situations can be avoided if dogs are kept under control.
But rightly or wrongly, dog lovers have taken it for granted that they have complete access to the park. Once you are used to things a certain way there is naturally going to be resistance to any changes.
Full marks should go to RDNO and the BX Community Association for trying to maximize a recreational resource, but doing so after years of neglect is similar to leaving the back door open and wondering why Fido has run wild.
—Richard Rolke is the senior reporter for The Morning Star