At their meeting this week, Sackville councillors learned that the town’s first dog park could cost about $80,000, more than triple the $25,000 available for it in this year’s budget.
As a result, town manager Jamie Burke recommended that council allocate funds in next year’s capital budget for two fenced-in parks — one for small dogs and another for larger ones.
The off-leash areas would be in a field beside the TransCanada Highway in Beech Hill Park, about six and a half kilometres from downtown Sackville.
Burke made the recommendation after consulting with Viridis Design Studio, a landscape architectural firm, and after talking with officials in Riverview and Amherst, which already have dog parks.
“Amherst, when they first started their park, they had two areas proposed,” Burke said, adding that for budgetary reasons, the town reduced it to one large, fenced-in dog park.
“Their primary advice to us was to build two separate areas,” Burke said.
He added that most of the money would be spent on fencing, but that other suggestions included structures for shade and seating, waste bins and running water, holding areas for dog owners to be able to release their pets safely, and large areas for wood chips or stone dust so that the dog parks don’t turn into a sea of mud.
Burke recommended that before building a separate parking lot for the dog park, the town should wait to see whether people need one, since Beech Hill’s main lot is nearby.
“Before we go out and suggest that we need a parking lot, we’d like to see how users behave in the area — whether they’re using the existing parking lot, whether they’re parking along the access road and how they’re getting into the area,” he said.
Burke suggested the town should also wait to see whether users would need a trail connecting the existing Beech Hill parking lot to the dog park.
The decision to build the dog park in Beech Hill appears to fly in the face of the results of a survey the town conducted last summer. Of the 472 people who responded, 38% favoured a downtown location, while 29% chose Beech Hill.
However, during a council meeting in September, Burke argued it made sense to put the dog park in Beech Hill because of its ample parking and running water. He said that it would generate increased traffic to Beech Hill, encouraging more people to use its facilities while making the park safer. He added that a dog park could also be popular with tourists because of its proximity to the TransCanada Highway.
Burke acknowledged that while some of the properties the town acquired downtown for its flood control project could be used for a dog park, that land might still be needed if the Lorne Street project expands.
Meantime, at this week’s meeting, Councillor Bill Evans sounded enthusiastic about the prospects for a dog park next year.
“I don’t have a dog,” Evans said. “[But] one of the great things about this town is that we do something for everybody and this is a really big, nice thing, or will be I think, for a significant part of our constituents and so I think this is great.”