Room to Run

Muddy dog

This is one of my favourite photos of my dog, Roxy. Not because it’s a good photograph, not because she looks her best (obviously not), but because it’s at the end of a good play session at one of her favourite parks. She’s tired out and ready to go home, no mean feat for a feisty terrier cross.

Trout Lake, or John Hendry Park as it’s officially known, has been an east side institution for dog owners for many years now. Though most of the park requires dogs to be on leash and there are sections where dogs are not allowed at all, there is also a big off leash area that includes access to the lake, a large green space, and shady treed areas. There is plenty of room for dogs to run and play there. There’s also enough room that small dogs like mine can run in areas away from the rougher play of larger dogs. People bring their dogs to Trout Lake from all over East Vancouver, as there’s a dearth of off leash areas on the east side and across the city, really.

Unfortunately, this resource is under threat from the Vancouver Park Board. The proposal before the Board aims to reduce the off leash area by 80%. Though it’s being touted as being the size of a football field, the layout would amount to a narrow strip that includes boggy terrain, a steep slope, and deep water. An 80% reduction would also lead to crowded conditions, which would prevent many of us from allowing our dogs to play there. Though dog owners use the park 365 days a year, rain or shine, the Park Board seems to be privileging those who use the park lightly and only in good weather, those who also have most of the park in which to picnic, play, and swim dog-free.

The Park Board’s lack of support for off leash areas seems counter-intuitive, as regular users of parks, like dog owners, should be natural allies for the Park Board’s goal of increasing green space for residents. It’s also strange, given the City of Vancouver’s commitment to building a Healthy City. The off leash area of Trout Lake has become a community hub, for dog owners and lovers alike, which is in line with the City’s goal of cultivating connections in a place that’s famously alienating. Another of the Healthy City strategy’s pillars is to promote active living and getting outside – Trout Lake provides regular exercise for dog owners alongside their pets.

The Park Board’s stance on off leash areas is being implemented across the city, with reductions and restrictions being proposed for many of the most popular destinations for dog owners. There are plenty of overdeveloped, groomed park spaces in Vancouver – surely there’s room for natural spaces and room to run for the dogs that improve the quality of life for many urban dwellers?

If you’d like to take a stand against these proposed changes, Dog Lovers of Trout Lake is a good place to start. You can also let the Park Board, City Council, and the Project Manager know how you feel at the following addresses: