Dog beach buried, but two new pooch parks planned

A boxer and a pug tussle playfully at Sarnia’s off-leash dog park in Germain Park. Glenn Ogilvie file photo

Tara Jeffrey

Following a lengthy debate and public consultations, Sarnia has dropped the idea of a beach for dogs but is moving forward on two new off-leash dog parks.

Council directed staff last week to prepare site design concepts for leash-free zones at Tecumseh Park and Heritage Park, as well as costing for next year’s budget deliberations.

“There would be an area that would be completely fenced off, similar to what’s happened right know in Germain park which is the city’s only (publicly owned) off-leash dog park,” said Stacey Forfar, general manager of community services.

“There would be appropriate amenities and access control, those sorts of things, to keep off-leash dogs separate from other users in the park space, who don’t necessarily want to come in contact with them.”

The new park proposals come after “generally negative” feedback for an off-leash dog beach, according to a staff report. The public consultation included written notice to dog-friendly establishments, an online Speak Up Sarnia survey that drew 225 users, as well as 68 written submissions.

Many residents expressed concern about safety, the environment and irresponsible dog owners, the report said.

“Staff are recommending that at this time, public beaches be for use by people only.”

Tecumseh and Heritage were identified for leash-free zones because they are large parks with under-utilized areas and accessible onsite parking. Summer water features could be considered in their design.

“It is a great way to program under-utilized space, and keep folks in these park spaces and keep eyes on these parks all day long,” Forfar said. “We’re certainly wide open to continuing to hear some feedback in terms of potentially future parks.”

Sarnia had about 4,200 licensed dogs last year, and 4,400 licensed dogs in 2020.

Coun. Bill Dennis said he struggled with “what seems to be a disconnect” between the comments and survey responses.

“The majority of the comments are negative towards a dog beach, but in the actual survey questions, there were over 250 selections choosing a dog beach location,” he said.

Dennis’ proposal to get more public feedback on a dog-friendly beach was defeated.