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CityPlace residents clash over lack of dog-friendly spaces

Last Updated Apr 3, 2019 at 11:29 pm EDT

A turf war is reportedly heating up over the use of certain areas of CityPlace’s Canoe Landing Park in downtown Toronto.

The park has a small area designated as an off-leash dog park which is temporary and not properly maintained by the city.

An area resident tells CityNews dog owners do not stick to the small designated dog park and regularly use another fenced off area, paved with soccer turf, to let their dogs off-leash, leading to complaints from other residents.

A recent altercation, caught on video and spread widely online, seems to show the ongoing animosity between the two groups.

Warning: This video contains language that may be offensive to some viewers

The video, recorded on a phone, shows a few dog owners with dogs off-leash on the turf. One dog repeatedly runs towards and barks at the man recording, culminating in a dog owner slapping the phone out of the man’s hand.

Art Melon, the resident who recorded the video, says he was seated on a bench in the area when an off-leash dog came up to him. He says he began documenting the incident because he’s fed up with people misusing the area, but the video has been blown out of proportion online.

“It was not as extreme as everyone online is making it out to be,” says Melon. “I was not punched in the face, the dog did not really attack me … any consequential contact was just that.”

However Melon adds that the topic of dogs is an inflammatory one in CityPlace that has polarized residents. He says he enjoys living in the area but would like to see people be more respectful of shared spaces.

“You’re not alone here, just cooperate. It’s a mutual respect thing – we’re all dealing with the same problems here,” he says.

Gary Pieters, president of the CityPlace residents association, says the incident highlights issues around infrastructure and a lack of dog-friendly spaces in CityPlace – one of the most densely populated areas in the downtown core.

“The video demonstrates that the lack of green space and the lack of a proper dog run has created a lot of community conflict,” he says.

Pieters says the temporary dog park can accommodate about 15 small dogs at a time. With around 12,000 residents and 2,500 dogs in the 33 building complex, that small space is extremely inadequate.

“The average number of dogs in CityPlace is 75 per building,” says Pieters. On average in Toronto, the ratio of humans to dogs is one dog per 12 people. In CityPlace, that number is one dog per 4.6 people – close to double the number.

“That’s a significant number of dogs. There are more dogs in CityPlace than there are children,” says Pieters.

Area resident Vanda Faustino says not only is the temporary park too small for the number of dogs in the neighbourhood, but the lack of proper maintenance is a health hazard for dogs.

“We can deal with dogs being dirty or muddy,” she says. “The problem is the pools of water that accumulate in there – the dogs, they drink it and they get sick because it’s full of bacteria, urine and feces.”

She says many dog owners like herself don’t want to put their dogs at risk and therefore use the artificial turf, even though municipal code 608 specifically prohibits it — but soon, even that won’t be an option.

Two new schools and a community centre currently under construction will use that space as a playground, making it off-limits to area residents.

In addition, plans to build any new dog parks in the area are on hold because:

  • The Bentway Project under the Gardiner includes plans for a dog park at the northeast corner of Dan Leckie Way and Lakeshore Boulevard. However it cannot be built as the expressway is crumbling and all new developments underneath the Gardiner have been halted until the necessary repairs to the underside are complete. Pieters says the city does not have a timeline for Gardiner repairs at this time.
  • Canoe Landing Park was designed as an art piece by Douglas Coupland. As per a contract singed with Concord, the developers of CityPlace, the integrity of this art cannot be altered while the artist is still alive.
  • The inability to make alterations to Canoe Landing Park means the city cannot upgrade the current temporary dog park.

 

Coun. Joe Cressy says the city is working to speed along the creation of the Bentway dog park.

“That’s part of the Bentway’s expansion program and we’re working to expedite that and hopefully have that done in this term of council,” says Cressy, which means a timeline of at least three years.

In the mean time, Cressy says the temporary dog park will be refurbished in the spring with new wood chips and seating.