It doesn't seem like too much to ask that all Hammer-folk can walk to a park and let their dogs off-leash legally.
By Lindsay Soomet
Published August 31, 2009
"There are many options in Hamilton for dogs and their owners," claims The City of Hamilton website, but where, oh where may they be? We have seven designated areas to let our canine companions loose in a community of 714,900 people in its metropolis - the ninth largest city in Canada! Dogs are abundant here, and most are on-leash or backyard-bound when it's time to play fetch.
After a recent move to Hamilton, I made it my mission to keep Finnegan, my two-year-old chocolate lab, as chipper as he was in Toronto. So far, I've failed. Water is sparse in steeltown, though wherever I seem to be going or coming from, Lake Ontario is looking back at me. Can we not deem some portion of it to the dogs? In Toronto, Finn had beaches to choose from - now he's left dogpaddling in half-filled puddles from earlier rains.
Thanks to some neighbourly advice, we did find a great spot hidden away in Dundas. On Tally Ho Drive there's a small parking lot that can easily be missed, with a trail leading to forest, endless pathways, and yes, a pond and stream! Warren Park is the sweet spot for a drenched game of retrieval, but without wheels, you and your poodle are out of luck.
Further up the mountain the SPCA has a designated park with a small stream too, but it's quite the hike to venture to, and even on a Sunday afternoon you'll find only a handful of tail-waggers and their owners.
An alternative is to take the pooch out in the wee hours of the morn, when it's so dark Fido can let loose in a city park without being spotted by the law. But c'mon now, who wants to rise before the break of dawn and risk a whopping $125 fine just to see their dog run in an open field? Finn is a lucky little guy to have an owner that takes such chances to see that doggy grin.
Things are taking shape on the horizon, though. Some of our City Councillors are stepping up for Hamilton's hounds. Bob Bratina, the city's Ward 2 Councillor, who's not a dog owner but still has a huge sense of appreciation for the ones in Hammertown, may have dug up the perfect location to cater to dogs, their owners and concerned neighbours.
"The rail trail goes past this ideal spot - a big, triangular piece of land just to the east of Young [St.] and Ferguson [Ave. S.]," said Bratina. He added that creating a park on this site could additionally curb the grafitti and loitering happening there. Bratina plans to propose this to the city in anticipation of making his vision a reality.
Apparently the Councillor had already been hoping for a park proposal in Corktown to be approved earlier, but alarmed neighbours killed the deal. "They have this picture of dogs running wild and a big dog fight, but that's not what it is," Bratina proclaimed.
There's an urgency to shed light on the subject, to enable Hamiltonians to discover what people of Toronto stumbled upon long ago - city dog parks provide a place to keep dogs under control, exercised and content, thereby decreasing the number of negative off-leash incidents the city may encounter.
Right now there are just not enough parks to accommodate the city's puppy population. Brian McHattie, our Ward 1 Councillor, agrees, claiming, "the leash-free park in Ward 1 has been extensively used and both dogs and their owners appear to be really pleased with the facility. We've found that citizens from across the city are using the park, so this may suggest a need for leash-free parks in other areas."
The park he's speaking of is on Hill Street near Dundurn, and if you visit there in the morning, one of the first things you notice is that more dogs are driven by car here than walked on foot. Shouldn't we be able to walk our pals to a park for a play? And what about the owners who don't have a car?
We need to lobby for more dog spots in the urban areas of this city amass with green space. It doesn't seem like too much to ask that all Hammer-folk can walk to a park and let their dogs off-leash legally. Perhaps with Bratina's potential downtown park, more will emerge, because one still isn't enough.
To propose an off-leash area near you, visit the City of Hamilton website, Public Works Department, and you'll find the means to complete an application form [see links at the bottom of the page]. For questions or concerns regarding the Leash Free Parks Program, the city encourages us to call their office at 905-546-2424 ext. 2045.
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