Jim Elliot/Salmon Arm Observer                                 Sarah Figgess and Barb Cruickshank pose for a photograph at the new dog park in Klahani Park on Friday, July 7.

Jim Elliot/Salmon Arm Observer Sarah Figgess and Barb Cruickshank pose for a photograph at the new dog park in Klahani Park on Friday, July 7.

City’s new dog park met with a growl

Citizens disappointed with lack of shade, benches and more

A couple of concerned dog owners predict the city’s new dog park at Klahani Park won’t be met with many wagging tails or excited barks.

The city, however, calls it just a start – a first step.

Because she lives nearby, Sarah Figgess uses the Klahani area in South Canoe to help her complete 10,000 steps a day. She is not pleased with the dog park, which she prefers to call a “compound.”

“They’ve fenced an area that amounts to one-third of an acre. It’s an area that has no grass, no shelter, no shade.”

She notes that dog play is a social time both for the handlers and the dogs, yet there’s no seating for people.

Figgess estimates there could be 8,000 people in Salmon Arm who are dog owners – and voters.

“For a town this size, not to have a dedicated dog park is shameful.”

She also refers to all the hotel rooms in town that are pet friendly, meaning lots of incoming dogs and that there are more pet food stores than grocery stores.

“Dog walking is a year-round occupation, more than baseball or other things. Where are these 8,000 people walking their dogs?”

She says many go to Blackburn Park, to school grounds, to the fields and park at Little Mountain, to the fairgrounds.

Figgess says a lot of cities such as Kamloops have a large dog park and a small dog park joined together on one or more acres of land, complete with cleaning supplies, shade and water, benches, adequate drainage and grass. But not Salmon Arm’s.

“It is literally a blank piece of paper with a chain link fence around it. It is, in a word, pathetic.”

She sees it as inhumane with no shade, and she doesn’t see any reason why people would change their dog-walking habits to bring their dogs there.

Barb Cruickshank, coordinator for Fido Friday with the Lady Striders, voices a similar view.

“It’s disheartening to see a sign go up calling that a dog park. There’s no grass for the dogs, no trees, just a fenced-in pit of dirt.”

She said she wouldn’t take the dogs there – it would be better to go to the ball diamonds.

To throw up a sign and call that a dog park; I wouldn’t have even called it a dog park until it was finished. It was a shocker.”

Cruickshank adds that when the temperature is 32 C, she’s not about to put dogs in a sand pit.

There’s dust, “and it’s hotter than a firecracker.”

Rob Niewenhuizen, the city’ director of public works, emphasizes the current dog park is just a first step.

“We haven’t got any irrigation in there yet, no trees in there yet, so it’s just a start.”

Trees will probably be planted in the fall, he says, and city staff still need to meet to decide what will be irrigated.

“We just wanted to get a fenced-off area started so it would take some pressure off the fall fairgrounds.”

He said the lack of trees is no different than running dogs out in the ball fields at Blackburn.

The fence had to go up because of the contracting schedule, he explains.

As for comparing it to Kamloops and other dog parks, “first of all we don’t have the budgets they do, and it’s hard to compare things that are well established,” he says.

Niewenhuizen says the fence will stay, as the posts have been concreted in, and the dog park will be expanded as work on the ball diamonds proceeds. Spring flooding pushed the city works schedule back, he notes.

Niewenhuizen says the approved budget for the project is $35,000 and so far $10,000 has been spent on fencing.

“Eventually Klahani Park will be a very lush green space.”