By Andrea Arnold
A pilot project to use the John Osadchuk ball diamond as a winter dog park has sparked outrage among ball diamond users facing dog owners who left dog scat behind on the field, and has Valemount Council considering other ways to meet dog owners needs.
At the April 25th Valemount council meeting, there were two letters from concerned citizens regarding the shared ball diamond/dog park. There was also a thread on the Facebook Valemount Bulletin Board where several residents voiced their displeasure at the dual use of the John Osadchuk Ball Diamond.
Councillor Donnie Maclean agreed with the letters, and was disappointed to see what a mess the park was. That people did not respect the partnership that council had hoped would work out. She expressed gratitude to the group that did go in and clean it up, but noted that, within five days, one could hardly tell any cleaning had been done. She had hoped that this partnership would work, but does not believe it will.
Councillor Blanchette also said that she thinks that as the ball diamond is only used for a few months of the year, maybe something can be agreed on for a shared use.
MacLean agrees with Councillor Blanchette that another area needs to be looked at.
CAO Depenau said that following the Dec 13 meeting, a list of rules were made out, but he apologized as those were never posted at the park. The decision was made just prior to the holidays and when they returned, the timeline was such that the signs never made it to the park. The letters also state that the “No Dogs” signs that are posted during ball season were never removed. CAO Depenau said that it was his understanding that Public Works did remove signs. He said that perhaps one sign was missed causing confusion.
“We thought that it was brought up to an impeccable standard by the group that went out to clean it,” he said referring to a group of citizens that volunteered time to clean up the mess.
He also said that Public Works will be doing a further cleaning before May 1st when the user group begins their ball season.
Councillor Pearson said that between May 1st and the end of September he thinks the ballpark will be used most days. He is sorry that it came to this.
“We gave an option and unfortunately it was abused by others,” he said. “Part of it is that maybe we dropped the ball letting people know the decision was made for the winter.”
He says he wouldn’t support it as a dual use park going forward, and understands the concern voiced by residents regarding a health and cleanliness concern. He said he is not even sure he would support a designated area that isn’t the ballpark. He asked who will police it because it is not public works responsibility to keep it clean.
Although Councillor Blanchette herself is not a dog owner, she does see the value in a dog friendly off leash area.
“I think a dog park is a good idea,” she said. “Most other communities have one. I believe nine out of ten will keep it clean.” The area that is being used will be used if it is designated or not, so she thinks they should give it a try.
Through a post on Facebook, Regena Bergen suggested that perhaps Columbia Basin Trust would help fund a dog park project through an application by a local non-profit.
Although the Village has not made any final decisions on the topic at this time, Mayor Torgerson pointed out that in the budget that they are currently finalizing, there is a line item dedicated to fencing for a dog park space, so the issue will remain open for discussion and possibilities at future meetings.