It is with a great deal of concern that I address the May 10 memorandum and recommendation from Kendra Krysazak, manager of parks and public spaces, to council, that additional areas of the Marshall Field off-leash dog park be fenced for exclusive use of the Vernon Baseball Association, and removed from use by the dog owners of the City of Vernon.
I ask you to consider the following:
1. The off-leash dog area is used during all daylight hours, seven days per week, for 52 weeks each year by dog owners to exercise and socialize their pets. It is my understanding that the baseball association uses their diamonds approximately three hours on weekday evenings and up to six hours on weekends, for approximately 14 weeks per year. Patently, the proposed additional fenced area has far greater utility each year for dogs/owners than for spectators of the ball games.
2. The existing bleachers in the dog park overlooking the diamonds are grossly underutilized by the spectators. Often, they are completely unused during games. Instead, the spectators spread out lawn-chairs, umbrellas and blankets and erect large shade-tents in the off-leash area, thereby encroaching on the dog area. On May 23, dog owners witnessed four large shade tents erected in the off leash area, plus two pairs of spectators playing catch well into the dog-walking area.
3. On several occasions dog walkers – myself included – have had to duck from foul balls hit into the off-leash area. Invariably, the dog owners cheerfully toss those balls back into play, without complaint.
4. Ball spectators complain about dogs chasing balls. They are dogs in a dog park. Dogs chase balls. Why are the balls in the dog park?
5. Spectators complain about off-leash dogs, dogs urinating on blankets and chair legs. I refer to comment 2 above – the blankets and chairs are actually in the off-leash dog area. Dogs urinate everywhere in the off-leash area.
6. I further point out that frequently, after games, we see the dog park grounds, adjacent to the diamonds, littered by sunflower seed (Spitz) shells, which cannot be digested by dogs, with chewing gum, and with uncollected litter.
7. Often, the parking lot gates are left ajar when ball equipment is being returned to vehicles, such that dogs can run out into the parking lot.
8. One letter of complaint, from the Vanderveldes, refers to a dog jumping up at their son’s raised arms and “biting” him (they later note that the “bite” was a red mark, not broken skin). That is truly an unfortunate event, and that dog should have been controlled by its owner, but it was off-leash in a prescribed off-leash area, so caution must be taken by both sides.
9. Our family, like countless other Vernon families, have used Marshall Field Off Leash Dog Park ever since it was designated as such many years ago, and during that time the number of aggressive interactions between dogs and humans could be counted on fewer than the fingers of one hand. When dogs are off-leash, they are calmer and more placid and patently less aggressive.
I respectfully suggest the following:
1. That spectators make use of the existing bleachers, already there for their exclusive use.
2. That shade tents be allowed but be erected adjacent to the existing fences, rather that being erected further into the park or behind the bleachers, as is done presently (and from which the games cannot be easily watched).
3. That all park users – ball players, spectators and pet owners – collect all of their trash and use the numerous containers provided.
4. That the access gates be shut after entry and exit.
5. That spectators respect that they are sitting in a dog park, not a ball park.
I submit that fencing the proposed additional areas of the dog park is unfair to the majority users of the park and creates a loss of amenity, and $45,000 of unnecessary expense.
This beautiful parkland area can be happily and readily shared by both types of users and pet owners and ball fans can co-exist with a little co-operation, without creating additional physical separation.