Grebe versus German Shepherd. Song sparrow versus spaniel. City council is in something of a quandary.
On Monday, Nov. 23 at 7 p.m. at city hall, council will be welcoming input on whether dogs should be permitted, on leash, on the foreshore trail along Salmon Arm Bay. Council might or might not decide the question that night.
Opinions are divided on what this will mean for the birds and wildlife in the sanctuary that has been under the guardianship of the Nature Bay Society (SABNES) for the past 25 years.
The decision became council’s when SABNES requested that council alter its bylaw to prohibit dogs from the foreshore trail. Currently the bylaw allows dogs on leash, but SABNES has kept signs posted at the trail prohibiting dogs completely.
People have complained about the ban, particularly neighbour Peter Robertson, who also contacted council, stating that the public should be given free access to the publicly owned trail.
SABNES has warned about the effects of even leashed dogs on the sanctuary, stating many ground-nesting birds nest along the trail’s edge, and the absence of dogs has meant many species of wildlife frequent the area because of its relative safety.
According to city staff, the southeast and east sides of the trail are CP Rail land. Along the lake side – the northwest and west side of the trail, the land is owned by Nature Trust BC.
Most, but not all, of the trail surface is aligned with a 10-metre-wide walkway owned by the city. According to Tom Brighouse with SABNES, in three spots it wanders onto Nature Trust land, as do the boardwalks. The last 550 metres of the trail leading to Raven is on city land.
During budget deliberations Monday, council once again entertained a request for a cantilevered walkway on Lakeshore Drive.
Coun. Ken Jamieson stated that council needs to find a way to make it safer.
“Perhaps a walk along the foreshore,” he said with a smile.
Coun. Kevin Flynn also referred to the foreshore trail. If council keeps getting requests for Lakeshore, he said, “we probably shouldn’t be blocking access from the community…”
The George C Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary is located in Delta, an hour’s drive from Vancouver.
Manager Kathleen Fry said the Delta sanctuary is in a situation similar to Salmon Arm, in that the bylaw governing it allows dogs on leash.
However, no dogs are permitted, she said, noting it’s part of a national wildlife area.
“I would be concerned about dogs, whether on leash or not. Owners are particularly bad about keeping them on, and dogs and water are kin,” she said, noting she’s not been to Salmon Arm Bay, although she’s heard of it.
She said perhaps a sort of “doggy fence” might keep people on track if the trail is a connector for the neighbourhood, but she would be cautious.
“If you get an ingrained dog use pattern,” she says, people forget about restrictions.
She said if dogs were allowed, a bylaw officer should be dedicated to enforce the restrictions.
In Delta, she says, the needs of the birds come first.
“You have to emphasize why it’s set up in the first place; the original root cause was the protection of birds.”