Bertold Park – A Citizen’s Thinking

We have been given the following letter from a concerned resident of Baie-D’Urfé (Ralph Tesson 64 Churchill Rd.) that has been sent to the Mayor and Council and we were asked to share it with the town – which is our pleasure. It adds a further perspective to the information posted yesterday.


As a concerned Baie D’Urfe resident I too was interested in the future of Bertold Park and attended the information session.  What surprised me somewhat was that the study group summary seemed to have a number of elements to it that sounded like opinions rather than facts.  Certainly the audience in attendance also had opinions, but again few facts. For me a research study primarily looks at facts and then once the facts are established decisions become perhaps less emotional. To illustrate my point let’s take one example given during the presentation; the cleanliness of the park.  It was mentioned as a con that there was litter around the park including used condoms.  Adding that ‘fact’ to the presentation for me completely undermined the reason for why we were all in attendance.  Does someone actually think that either the dogs or the dog owners were solely responsible for the used condoms?  I live across the street from the curling club, and the number of broken beer bottles, refuse and yes, used condoms are omnipresent, but I also see teens hanging out there and perhaps think that they might be at lest as suspect as the dogs and dog owners for this debris.  The same holds true for the Gazebo.  In fact any public area in Baie D’Urfe that has parking or easy accessibility is equally likely to have objectionable refuse left there however none of them are being considered to be relocated because of this fact.  So drawing this point out in a factual presentation seems opinionated and taints the work of the committee whose goal was to be objective.

Let’s look at a few more ‘facts’ that were presented:

• exercise equipment – In the 21 years that I have lived here, and walk or drive by Bertold Park I can count on my hands the number of times that this equipment has been used.  And I work from home so that means I go by at all hours of the day.  If it is felt that this is important to the community it would be much simpler to move than creating a whole new dog park elsewhere.

• The advertising of the park to non-residents. Baie D’Urfe is a lovely town with a number of great features, and therefore desirable.  Sure, outsiders will use the dog park, but they will also take wedding pictures at Fritz farm, picnics by the water etc.  The tennis club for instance has more members from other communities than it does from residents, and yet my taxes pay for that club, as it does the pool and the curling club.  Our soccer fields are constantly host to many outsiders, in fact we welcome all of Lakeshore to come and enjoy our parks. To argue that the park should be only for residents goes against town policy for other public properties and therefore should not be a consideration; the same rule should apply to all public land in the city.  Single out Bertold park and then we are dealing with opinions and emotions, not facts.

• Accessibility.  I’m unclear as to how this applies to Bertold Park.  The parking lot is paved, but other than that there is absolutely no accommodation made for wheelchair or walker access.  There is a grass slope going from the parking lot to the park, no different from the park in front of Fritz farm.  There is no paved path that would make access to the park easier.  If we wanted in fact to better accommodate our disabled then a boardwalk along the waterfront in front of Fritz farm would be far more suitable as it has much more waterfront.  Or the location suggested for the relocation of the dog park; this would be great if this area was made accessible to the residents of Maxwell house as well as our other residents since it would be closer.  To talk about accessibility to a park seems less relevant when if we look at the current parks in the city only three of them have a sidewalk to get to them, the rest of them have to be accessed by walking on the road, which is certainly not well suited to the physically challenged.

• Safety for our children.  Having taken my children down to Bertold ever since they were infants was always an issue; not because of dogs but because of the waterfront itself.  It is comprised of sharp, slippery rocks and certainly not child or adult friendly.  If it was landscaped and the water was suitable for swimming then priority should be given to families, but this is not the case.  The dogs at least get a chance to swim in hot weather, unless your plans for a new park include a dog pool.

Knowing that Nearly 25% of Baie D’Urfe residents are dog owners makes this an important issue.  Arguments that only a certain percentage of those use the dog park to me seem somewhat irrelevant.  We have numerous parks for children and yet not all children go to these parks.  What is important is that they are all welcome to use the park and if there are suggestions as to how the park can be enhanced for the safety of the dogs and other users of the park then these should be pursued, especially if it increases the pleasure obtained for all users of the park.

Since no empirical data was accumulated, there were no phone surveys or people with clipboards gathering factual information to me the study group has only done part of the work necessary to make a clear choice with regards to the future of Bertold Park. If we don’t have the resources available to gather such data the second best thing that we can do is cite relevant research done by other communities with regards to the concept of unleashed dog parks.  From having gone through the references below there are some conclusions that I can draw.  Parks are vital to the health, well-being and community interaction for a city and the benefits of this green space outweighs the cost.  Distance to a park increases the value of resident properties, this does not hold true for playgrounds however.  Unleashed dog parks are the fastest growing type of park across all of North America and urban planners across Canada and the US are studying how they can best be implemented.  These parks bring more people together than any other type of park other than a playground.  We have numerous playgrounds in Baie D’Urfe, but only one dog park.  So regardless of whether or not I have a dog, as a member of the community I realize that my proximity to Bertold Park increases the value of my property.  The fact that dog parks are the fastest growing sector of green space means that this also increases the value of my property since dog owners seek out this as an important factor in evaluating a new home.

Since we are limited in resources, perhaps we can take cues from the City of Winnipeg who have surveyed numerous citizens and had forums to discuss the issues surrounding the successful implementation of a dog park.  The link is here:

Off Leash Dog Areas Master Plan – Planning, Property and Development Department – City of Winnipeg and the summary newsletter is attached and the whole plan is available here: http://www.winnipeg.ca/ppd/PublicEngagement/OffLeashAreas/documents/Off-Leash-Dog-Areas-Master-Plan.pdf

Now I hope that these resources help to guide the committee with regards to the importance of the dog park for our residents.  My personal feeling is that a fenced in portion of Bertold Park with access to the water would be ideal, and would also add a portioned off area of the park exclusive to small dogs so that all dogs may benefit.  Given the currents and the slippery rocks it would be preferable that the small dog area would not have access to the water.  Perhaps a solution that would appease all members of the community is to simply make the dog park thinner near the water such that this space may be shared by all, some benches inside the fence and a few benches and tables outside of the fence.  I would also suggest that the fence go into the water and and create more of a barrier such that the dogs don’t come out of the water on the other side of the fence.  Some landscaping making access to the water easier and safer for dogs and owners would probably also be highly recommended.

I hope that you find this information useful in your continued research on how best to satisfy the community members and create a solution that best serves Baie D’Urfe.

Respectfully yours,

Ralph Tesson
64 Churchill Rd.

PS:

I would also like to make another point for consideration.  Since the proposed site for the new dog park is a wooded area with trails this might be of interest; in addition to Bertold Park.  The cost and environmental impact would be significantly less since trees could remain.  Many resident dog owners and users of Bertold Park also have memberships at the Arboretum.  The reason being that walking through trails allows you and your dog the chance to enjoy nature off leash.  Bertold Park is completely different, it is an area where your dog can socialize with other dogs and dog owners.  This is crucial for the development of dogs as it creates behavior patterns that lead to less aggressive dogs.  On leash dogs being walked through the rest of Baie D’Urfe are more likely to be less aggressive towards other dogs being walked, children and other people out on the street if they have been well socialized.  So in fact all members of Baie D’Urfe benefit from the dog park to a certain degree.  Now having a second off leash area as proposed would also allow for people to spend time with their dogs in a different environment and perhaps reduce the number of dogs at Bertold.  I’m sure that current users of the enclosure at  Bertold Park would also be much more receptive to a mixed use park with restricted hours if there was another area designated all day as a leash-free zone.  This might be the best of both worlds for all concerned residents and would enhance the value of the homeowner’s properties.

 

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