AMHERST, N.S. – Fido will be in a doggie ecstasy soon as Amherst prepares to open its new permanent dog park at Dickey Park.
“We’re very excited to be seeing this project coming together,” Amherst’s recreation director Bill Schurman said. “This whole thing started many years ago through a Facebook group asking about the possibility of having an off-leash dog park and from that group there continued to be dialog off and on.”
The park, is a designated area with Dickey Park, set aside by the town for dog guardians to legally exercise, lay and socialize with their dogs in an off-leash environment. It’s approximately an acre in size and is fully enclosed with a six-foot tall chain-link fence. There is a water source, seating and eventually there will be additional amenities to make it clear that dogs are not only permitted, but invited.
It’s hoped the park will be ready for the opening of the A-Fest on Friday.
While very few dogs are registered within the town, it’s estimated that 35 per cent of Canadian households have a dog. The town has a bylaw that prohibits dogs from being off-leash within town limits.
Off-leash parks are growing in popularity and following its election in 2016 the current mayor and council set establishing an off-leash dog park as a priority and held a series of public meetings to gauge public interest that led to the establishment of a pilot project at the Robb Centennial Complex last winter.
“This was a very positive experience and suggested genuine support for the development of a permanent park with the capital expense being approved during the town’s budget earlier this year,” Schurman said.
Schurman said the town has the goal of becoming the most physically active community in Nova Scotia and that goes for dogs as well as humans. Dog parks provide opportunities for dogs to get exercise. He said exercised dogs are less likely to misbehave and those that are well socialized and exercised are healthier and happier.
Dog parks also provide public space for dog owners to interact with each other and provide an opportunity for those dog owners with limited access, such as seniors and the physically challenged, to get out and exercise their dogs.
Use of the park is free and is part of the complete family package at Dickey Park. Along with the park, the town has also moved the play equipment closer to the splash pad in response to requests to have the two attractions closer together to make it easier for parents to monitor their children at the splash pad and playground equipment.
Schurman said while the dog park is permanent, it’s still in pilot mode regarding guidelines for use as the town learns what works and what does not.
“Most dogs are suitable for off-leash parks, some are not. The most basic challenges associated with dog parks can be avoided by not bringing inappropriate dogs, such as dogs that are aggressive or under-socialized, fearful or anxious, unvaccinated and female dogs in heat,” Schurman said.
The park is self-supervised and users are there at their own risk. Users are asked to pick up after their dogs, always supervise their dogs and keeping their dogs under control with the understanding they be removed if they are being aggressive, annoys or intimidates other dogs.
Schurman said children entering the park must be accompanied by an adult. He also said dog parks are really not suitable for puppies and no more than two dogs can accompany any one guardian.
Several trees were removed inside the dog park as it was being built, but Schurman said that was because they had rotted and were unhealthy.
The recreation department will be looking for feedback on the park and will be forming a user advisory group to assist in education, monitoring and providing evaluation of the facility. Anyone interested is asked to contact the department at firstname.lastname@example.org or 902-667-6504.
While the park will open during the A-Fest, Schurman said work will continue inside the facility during the fall and winter. Also, he thanked town staff as well as Chelsea Baird, Aaron Bourgeois, Corey Crocker for their assistance in establishing the facility at Dickey Park.