Sackville councillors say no to $80k dog park

Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken at an earlier council meeting

Sackville Town Council has scrapped plans for an $80,000 dog park in Beech Hill Park.

At their meeting tonight, councillors came to a consensus that the project should be put off for at least year if not longer.

Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken appeared to speak for the majority when he said he thought Beech Hill Park was the wrong place for a fenced-in dog park.

“It’s too much money, a ridiculous amount of money for this,” Aiken said, suggesting that there may be better uses for the money given the potential financial stresses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic

“This is just not the right time to do it,” he said. “This is one we can put on hold for a year, two, three years whatever, if we really want it in the future some time.”

Aiken said that as someone who has three dogs himself, he knows there are lots of places to exercise them.

Councillor Joyce O’Neil repeated comments she made last fall when she said spending $80,000 for a dog park makes no sense.

“Not when we have miles of streets and sidewalks here in town where people can put their dogs on a leash and walk their dogs for exercise,” she said at tonight’s meeting.

Letting dogs run

Councillor Bill Evans

Only Councillor Bill Evans spoke in favour of a dog park.

“I’m not so dumb that I can’t read the writing on the wall here, but I just wanted to point out that the point of a dog park is the off-leash part,” he said.

“The fact that there are lots of places in town that you can walk a dog on a leash is not being disputed by anyone,” he added.

“There are very few places in town where you’re allowed to turn your dog loose and let them run.”

Town council initially allocated $25,000 for a dog park in last year’s budget after the town released a survey last summer showing strong support for one.

But councillors decided last fall to put the project off after learning that building two fenced-in areas in Beech Hill Park, one for smaller dogs and the other for larger ones, would cost $80,000.

The Beech Hill Park location, in a field beside the TransCanada Highway six-and-a-half kilometres from downtown Sackville, lost even more of its appeal in December when the Mayor’s Roundtable on Climate Change recommended that the dog park should be “as close as possible to the town centre to minimize the amount of driving and thus fossil fuel consumption undertaken by dog owners to get to the park.”

At tonight’s meeting, Councillor Andrew Black seemed to summarize the feelings of most councillors when he said he favoured maintaining the status quo — no dog park for Sackville.

“Like other councillors I was initially comfortable with the dog park — the $80,000 price point was a little high — but things change and my mind has been changed over time,” Black said.

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13 Responses to Sackville councillors say no to $80k dog park

  1. Pat Cormier says:

    I would say the council made a sensible decision during these times – dog parks are placed dogs pick up germs as well abd who would be responsible for the cleaning and disinfecting of this ? Glad sensible voices prevailed

  2. Gordon Heffler says:

    Good to see some sensibility prevailing in local governments…thank goodness that this did not turn into a case of the tail wagging the dog!

  3. Marc Truitt says:

    Well, color me disappointed. Having moved to Sackville from Edmonton — which prides itself on its forty-some off-leash parks — I have always felt the lack of one here to be a black mark on Sackville’s quality-of-life index. I walk my dog 4-5 miles per day on the street, but the whole point of an off-leash park is to *be off-leash*. You simply cannot give a dog the same kind of exercise on-leash as s/he gets when un-leashed. And then there is the socialization aspect. Dogs are highly social animals — people could learn much from dogs about playing well together! — and street walks just don’t provide the kinds of socialization opportunities they require.

    Sackville Councillors are smart, imaginative people. I really think that the cost and location issues are things that could be addressed creatively, if the will to have a dog park were there… but clearly, the will is lacking.

    This speaks to the larger issue of quality-of-life amenities in Sackville. We live in a town where developers are granted free reign to alter and destroy our public spaces and skyline — can you say “United Church”? — but where we can’t seem to find the will and resources to create things like off-leash parks and a pass-over/-under at the TCH for the marsh walking trail. Hmm… if Sackville isn’t about quality-of-life, then what’s the point of being here? A “new kind of small town,” indeed! Sigh.

    • Les Hicks says:

      Hi Marc, I understand your disappointment about Town Council’s decision to cancel/postpone the creation of an off leash park, but the price tag was very high for a small town and the location was less than ideal. Perhaps as Wendy mentioned you could do some research into lower cost alternatives and or locations more central to the town centre and discuss them with our Councillors.

      On a side note, coming from Edmonton, I’m sure you must appreciate Sackville Town Council’s willingness to allocate the required tax dollars for our town work crews to perform excellent snow clearing on our winter roads. Having lived in Edmonton myself for many years, where snow clearing appeared to be optional and was very infrequent, and many city streets were almost impassable during the winter, it was a treat to move back to a town where the Councillors understand the importance of properly maintaining our winter roads. You have to admit that is a quality of life issue as well.



  4. Mary says:

    I am glad they are taking the time to reconsider this idea. The cost is certainly a hefty price tag and while I am a dog owner it isn’t an idea that I support. Talking to those who specialize in dealing with pets (trainers, vets, etc.) I don’t know many if any that would advocate for this type of establishment. While the concept is one that I know appeals to some the cons far outweigh the pros from my experience.

  5. Gordon Heffler says:

    All in favour could group together and each one so minded could put in an equal amount of $$ until they have 80 grand then they could make a big ($80k) donation to the “small town” that they want to have this item…. in these kinds of monetary issues putting your money where your voice is might be the only way for those who need this to have it! These counselors are in their position (elected) to be guardians of the available finances and to assure that expenditures are made prudently. In the case of this one…they fulfilled that mandate.

  6. marc says:

    Thanks for your reply. Speaking for myself only, I would be happy to donate a reasonable share in order to see this happen.

    But I think this discussion is really missing my point. The original posting said: “Town council initially allocated $25,000 for a dog park in last year’s budget after the town released a survey last summer showing strong support for one.” Council’s response on Monday, as expressed by Deputy Mayor Aiken, was to defer action for “a year, two, three years whatever, if we really want it in the future some time.”

    There are ways to solve this, and I doubt that it’s only a binary choice, i.e., $80,000 or no dog park. The real question is whether the town *wants* an off-leash park and is prepared to think creatively about issues such as options, costs, location, etc. If Bruce’s account accurately reflects the discussion by Council members — and I have no reason to think otherwise — it was an up-or-down vote on a single option in terms of location and cost. That says to me that this isn’t a priority. A response aimed at something more than shutting down the whole discussion might have been for Council to ask town officials to do further investigation of options, and perhaps even — heaven forfend! — invite interested members of the public to participate and/or provide input.

    What is required is less a question of dollars than of leaders willing to think in terms of possibilities, rather than reasons to say “no”. Yes, Councillors have a fiduciary responsibility. But they also have a responsiblity to show vision and approach governance with creativity. At least, that’s what I’d expect of a place that touts itself as “a new kind of small town.”

    • Wendy Alder says:

      Marc, I would suggest that you watch the video of the council meeting. There were (I believe) 5 options given with regards to the dog park. In the end, council put it on the shelf. I’m in support of their decision at this time. As far as them asking for input, the public is free to attend meetings, ask questions, email councillors or even call them. This is not a new topic, it’s been discussed at a few meetings over the last couple of years. There’s LOTS of opportunity for local citizens to go and speak up. I would suggest if you feel strongly about it go diesel up.

      Comment from Bruce Wark: Thanks Wendy. Jamie Burke did present options to town council, but as I recall, councillors did not discuss any of them but made it clear they did not want an $80,000 dog park in Beech Hill especially after the Roundtable on Climate Change said Beech Hill required burning fossil fuels to get there. Only one option (other than scrapping the idea altogether) was an alternative to Beech Hill and it would require a land purchase. Here for the record are the options that the CAO presented:

      1. Go ahead with the original $80K plan in Beech Hill.
      2. Look at cutting down the Beech Hill plan to save money — maybe only half the size, for example.
      3. Identify a new location close to downtown — but that would require the purchase of suitable land as the town does not own any.
      4. Designate part of Beech Hill Park as an off-leash dog area with no fencing
      5. Do nothing.

      • Wendy Alder says:

        Thanks Bruce. I knew there were options. You’re right the discussion was mainly around the price but there were other options presented.

  7. Daniel Parsons says:

    Good day Friends and Neighbors of Beautiful Sackville New Brunswick!
    Merci/Thank-you for excepting me and my mental Health issues !
    I’m willing to build a off leash dog run .
    I will offer advertising on fences for a 1 time fee .
    Fee is only a toony per visit or 300 dollars for a yearly fee to maintain dog park and trails and to provide employment for our youth!
    I’m in need of advice and direction please .
    Can I apply for the
    25 000.00 grant for the project.
    I have nature trails on my 50 acres on Fairfield Rd that I purchased in October 2019 .
    Any suggestions please .
    I m willing to step up when the town stepped down.
    Dean Acres

  8. Gordon Heffler says:

    This discussion has not yet “gone to the dogs” thankfully Bruce’s forum here is gathering many good possibilities to find a way through this one…keep it going and we all together may find a good possible solution that will keep everyone engaged and something that could be taken back to the coucil floor. Keep the ideas, suggestions and alternatives coming for discussions here and then maybe onward.

  9. Will says:

    Town uses climate hysteria to make decisions about dog parks meanwhile many Sackville residents drive to Amherst to go to Superstore, Walmart because Sackville doesn’t want box stores, then lets the biggest box store into town (aka the Borg) which also consumes a ton of electricity to freeze blueberries. Solar/wind uses natural gas backups and fossil fuels to build the solar panels, and turbines.

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