In the end, it was a unanimous decision.
After weighing copious amounts of conflicting public input over the course of a month, on Monday Salmon Arm city council planted its collective feet and made a decision on the issue of dogs on the foreshore trail.
After more than an hour of outlining their positions and crafting motions, council voted to allow dogs on the trail for a one-year trial, but only on leashes a maximum length of two metres.
While the trail will be open to leashed canines, Nature Trust land such as Christmas Island and the boardwalks will not. Dogs will not be allowed at all on the foreshore trail for a two-month period when birds are nesting, likely April 15 to June 15. Council noted that during part of that time, the trail is generally flooded and inaccessible.
Plastic poop bag dispensers will be placed on the western and northern ends of the trail, and an additional garbage bin will be placed at the Raven end, to complement the existing ones.
Clear city signage will be installed, informing walkers of the regulations. The motion also states the Salmon Arm Bay Nature Enhancement Society (SABNES) will be encouraged to remove contradictory signs that state dogs are prohibited.
Coun. Alan Harrison gave notice of his motion at the Nov. 23 meeting of council, stating he would bring it forward at the Dec. 14 meeting. On Monday, Coun. Chad Eliason suggested the ‘trail closure during nesting times’ amendment.
But that wasn’t the end of the motions.
Coun. Tim Lavery, who said he had changed his mind a few days earlier and would be supporting the motion, spoke about the need to have objective data at the end of the one-year trial.
He moved that the Shuswap Trail Alliance facilitate a short- and longer-term consensus regarding dogs on the nature trail. He suggested they report back to council as soon as possible regarding an appropriate and independent data-monitoring plan. Lavery surmised that a professional and cameras might be needed to monitor the area, so he proposed $7,000 be taken out of council initiatives.
Mayor Nancy Cooper asked Phil McIntyre-Paul, executive director of the trail alliance, if his organization would be willing to take on the project, and he said yes.
Lavery’s motion passed unanimously.
Coun. Kevin Flynn said he thinks council’s decisions were long overdue and the “perfect start to what will be an inclusive, collaborative and respectful sharing of what I think is one of our greatest assets.”
He noted that an email from Nature Trust clearly supports such a trial.
Mayor Nancy Cooper said she has every respect for SABNES and the work they have done, as well as Nature Trust’s statement.
“Dogs more than ever are part of our family and we see them everywhere. The onus will be on dog owners as well to monitor each other.”
Coun. Alan Harrison pointed out the bylaw that’s been in place already allows dogs on leash, so his bylaw is not changing that, but strengthening it.
He also emphasized: “People who think dogs on leashes should be allowed on the foreshore trail like the birds and wildlife as much as those who don’t. And those who don’t think dogs should be allowed are not selfish people who want to keep the trail to themselves.”