Dogs on leash? No dogs at all? Dogs on Christmas Island?
Come Dec. 14, the uncertainty surrounding dogs and the foreshore trail along Salmon Arm Bay is expected to come to an end.
Following more than two hours of presentations Monday evening regarding dogs on the trail, Salmon Arm council agreed to make a decision at the Dec. 14 afternoon council meeting. There they will vote on a notice of motion proposed by Coun. Alan Harrison. The meeting starts at 2:30 p.m.
Harrison, who was alone in urging an immediate decision at the Nov. 23 public input meeting, moved that the city bylaw currently governing the trail be given an opportunity to work.
The bylaw states dogs must be kept on a leash and under the control of their owner. However, the Salmon Arm Bay Nature Enhancement Society, or SABNES, which has been the guardian of the trail and bird sanctuary for the past 25 years, has kept signs posted prohibiting dogs.
The decision came before council when SABNES requested the city alter its bylaw to officially prohibit dogs from the trail. Sanctuary neighbour Peter Robertson also brought a request to council – that leashed dogs be given free access.
In packed council chambers Monday night, about 20 people offered their views. Approximately 60 per cent asked council to put up signs allowing leashed dogs on the trail. Most also expressed appreciation for the sanctuary and the work of SABNES. Verbal confrontations were reported by some people who have walked their dogs on the trail.
Proponents of no dogs warned of the consequences to birds and other wildlife of allowing dogs, warning that a minority of owners might allow them off-leash.
Council also received about 80 written submissions.
Derek Woodhurst spoke in favour of allowing leashed dogs, stating other factors such as thundering trains likely have greater influence. He referred to bird refuges in B.C. that allow leashed dogs. He said the science is inconclusive, and Environment Canada regulations state only that no one shall permit a dog or cat to run “at large” in a migratory bird refuge.
Mike Saul, a former director of SABNES, spoke against leashed dogs, noting he saw a doe and two fawns at the foreshore this year who would have no chance with dogs. He said school children, nature groups and visitors from across Canada and around the world come to the sanctuary. He said he has travelled to several wildlife sanctuaries in the U.S. where dogs are not permitted.
“No-dog signs were in place long before owners built along Harbourfront,” he added.
Duncan Morris spoke in favour of allowing leashed dogs. He said he’s been a supporter of SABNES for a long time. He referred to the asset that the Stanley Park seawall is to Vancouver. He showed signage from other refuges, including this: “Dogs must be leashed. Failure to comply may result in this area of the park closed to dogs.”
Frank Manning spoke against allowing dogs, saying he’s seen dogs both on- and off-leash on the trail. An owner of an off-leash dog on Christmas Island told him it was okay because they were carrying a leash.
Tom Brighouse, a longtime SABNES member, said he might be all right with the proposal “if you can guarantee they’re all on leashes, all wearing diapers and not going to tread on Nature Trust land.”
Wendy Woodhurst spoke in favour of leashed dogs. She referred to an email from Nicholas Burdock with Nature Trust BC, which owns land on the lake side of the trail.
Referring to the 2004 management plan for the foreshore, Burdock sent a section on safety issues. The ‘target’ was: “no negative impact by recreational activities on wildlife and their habitats,” while the ‘action’ was: “Establish and enforce a ‘dogs on leash’ policy for all the Nature Trust properties.”
Woodhurst said dog owners should have the chance described to share the resource.
Peter Robertson said “it is absolutely clear” SABNES was supposed to allow dogs on leash. Tom Brighouse interjected, “Not true,” but was asked to refrain from speaking during the presentation.
Robertson referred to other bird sanctuaries in B.C. which allow leashed dogs, such as the Creston Valley’s.
Clay Lank, 84, who supported dogs on leash, offered comedic relief, drawing laughter from the audience with a variety of comments.
He explained he’d never been on “this so-called nature trail” until last Friday.
“I get down there and find we have a super highway.”
At the end of public comments, Harrison said the issue is not about one side against the other, it’s about sorting out uses. He noted he’s a regular user of the trail, he’s not a dog owner and he is a member of SABNES.
“Having said that, I believe we need to give the present bylaw an opportunity to work…” he remarked.
Proper signage and dog waste bags would be necessary, he stipulated, and he would be willing to entertain the suggestion to have no dogs on Christmas Island, as well as perhaps a maximum leash length.
He said it would be up to dog owners to ensure the success of the bylaw and, if it doesn’t work out – which he said he thinks it will – in a year “I will be here to withdraw it.”
Coun. Kevin Flynn voiced support for Harrison’s proposal after initially stating he was glad council was not going to make an immediate decision. He suggested dog owners would be willing to do their part to protect the area.
Councillors and Mayor Nancy Cooper commended all the speakers for their respectful attitudes and well-researched presentations.