Weir, Baxter and Kenwick in running for doggy beach

Plans are afoot that could see a dog-friendly beach open in Sarnia early next year. Jenilyn Sheppard Photo

Tara Jeffrey

Residents will be asked in the New Year to help choose the location for Sarnia’s first dog beach, as well as a third dog park in the city.

City staff has short-listed their ‘top three’ potential beaches — Mike Weir, Baxter and Kenwick Beach — and will begin public consultations on Jan. 17.

Three parks are in contention to host the next leash-free dog park ‑ Tecumseh, Mike Weir and Heritage Park. Sarnia currently has two dog parks, a municipal facility at Germain Park and one at the privately owned Blackwell Trails.

As for the contentious dog beach, city staff is now suggesting a ‘beach-sharing’ approach that would allow dogs on the chosen beach before 9 a.m., and after 6 p.m.

That would “avoid potential conflict with peak periods for beach-going humans to enjoy the beaches too,” the staff report states.

The limited hours would be in place from June 15 to Sept. 15. Dogs would be allowed on beaches at any time during the rest of the year, council heard at its Dec. 13 meeting.

A current rabies vaccination tag and dog licence tag would be required at all times.

The public survey is available starting Jan. 17 through Speak Up Sarnia. Feedback is sought on the beach and park locations, the beach-sharing idea, set times, suggestions for other park locations, and amenities such as water features.

The results will be reviewed after Feb. 7 with final recommendations going to council on Feb. 25.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Sarnia Off-Leash Dog Parks and Zones committee, which has been lobbying for more dog-friendly spaces for years, said she’s disappointed by staff’s direction.

“We were not consulted on any part of the report that went to council and do not support either of the locations,” said Analia Davis. “We will be sending our recommendations to council in the new year.”

The group maintains the west end of Canatara Beach is the ideal location for a dog-friendly beach.

City staff says that could lead to Canatara losing its coveted “Blue Flag” status — an international standard that demands high water quality and prohibits domestic animals on the sand.

Davis argues a section of beach could be separated off in order to maintain Blue Flag status.