By Greg Price
A group of dog enthusiasts has been asked by the Taber Recreation Board to bring back detailed plans of an exact vision of the improvements they would like to see for the off-leash dog park before Sept. 1 so that they can be considered for 2016 town budget deliberations.
Angel Svennes served as the head of a delegation representing an unofficial group of off-leash dog park users at the Taber Recreation Board meeting in March speaking of the benefits of the park to the dog community while also highlighting some safety concerns at the park where improvements could be made for overall enjoyment of the park located at NE 1-10-17W4, east of the fish pond.
There were no funds allocated in the 2015 operating budget for the town for improvements/upgrades to the facility and so the recreation board passed the motion unanimously. They have an exact vision from the dog park users with cost estimates for possible inclusion in the 2016 budget as a recommendation was the best course of action.
“I think we need to take a serious look at this because I believe for next year’s budget this could be a huge-ticket item. If you put 30 trees out there, that’s $5,000 for trees. A gate needs to be one that lasts, then there’s benches. The cost of running water down there will be a major cost,” said Randy Sparks, town councillor and recreation board member, at the recreation board’s April 2 meeting. “I’m not saying this isn’t a good project. It’s just this project may turn out to be more expensive than we think it is, if it’s going to be done right. And if we are going to do it, it has to be done right. As a rec board, we need to get some serious numbers so we know exactly what’s expected of this rec board to make a recommendation to council.”
Part of Svennes’ presentation back in March also highlighted 17 possible grant funding sources through Web sites that improvements to a dog park could possibly fall under.
“That’s something I’d like to see is what is it really going to cost. We can sit down with Angel and see what they want with an overall vision. If there are grants out there, then it makes the decision easier to go ahead,” said Merrill Harris, M.D. of Taber councillor and recreation board member.
Administration researched some of those concerns consulting with dog parks in Grand Prairie, Coaldale, Spruce Grove, Leduc and Lethbridge and presented the Taber Recreation Board with some of its findings at the board’s April 2 meeting.
In regards to water, administration was informed by several communities that they do not allow water or water bowls out at their dog park facilities due t the possibility of the spread of disease.
“There was concern of dogs transferring bacteria between dogs . With the bowls that we have out there, we should take them out because of multiple dogs drinking from them,” said Aline Holmen, recreation manager for the Town of Taber. “What’s currently out there is a milk jug full of water and we know with plastic bottles, when the sun hits them it changes the composition of the water.”
Removing the containers was a sentiment that Sparks agreed with.
“They should immediately be taken out there. They should not be there. People should not be leaving water out there, because you never know that when they leave, someone else could put something in there,” said Sparks. “People should be supplying their own bowls and their own water just for everyone’s safety.”
Trees were requested out at the off-leash dog park to provide shade and wind break for dog walkers and their pets.
“My understanding is whether they get water or not, if the tress are well established in the first year when they are planted, very likely these types of trees will survive on a drought-type of environment,” said Holmen of administration recommendations of either poplar or aspen trees with a truck diametre of larger than 2.5 inches, and a height of between 12 to 15 feet, with a cost of approximately $150 per tree. “That would include watering every couple of weeks.”
Getting water out to the park to water the trees would be a costly proposition according to Sparks.
“There would have to be a pipe run from the fitting down to the dog park on the south side. Depending on the grade of the pipe and putting the fitting in, it will cost you maybe a minimum of $2,500 for your fitting, plus your piping, plus $250 for your water,” Sparks. “Just running water down there is not a cheap venture in the least. You would want to run at least four inch down there and two fittings and some valves.”
For any extra benches at the dog park, costs would be between $600-$700 not including construction of a base to install permanently. There was signage for the dog park that was put in place for the dog park put in last year just off of Highway 864, but it has gone missing which administration noted they will replace.
As far as gopher hole concerns at the park for the safety of dogs and their owners walking the grounds, addressing the problem effectively looks to be a losing cause according to administration.
“We could use money to fill the holes and within 24 hours from when we filled the holes, they’ll be open again. The park is adjacent to a huge field where gophers travel up to three kilometres, so really it’s a lost cause fr that type of scenario,” said Holmen. “It would initially cost us about $500 to put some dirt out there that would fill the holes, but they will be dug up the next day, so it’s really sort of a futile effort.”
Administration along with recreation board members were favourable to a second gate being installed sooner rather than later with 2016 budget deliberations as a fix to safety concerns of animals and people entering and leaving the facility.
“A second gate seems to make sense. Checking with other dog parks and the in-and-out gates seem to be quite common,” said Holmen, adding a second gate installed properly would cost approximately $500.