In the circa-1960s photo, a gang of dogs stroll down Cleveland Avenue with nary a leash or even owner in sight.
It was a different time when our size and relative isolation allowed both humans and pooches more freedom. [In the 1950s, cows and horses had roamed free downtown until it became a problem and was stopped.]
But times have changed.
With more and more new people — and dogs — it is not a surprise that there are frequent human and dog conflicts in town.
While we get into heated debates about whose fault these conflicts are, solutions can be found down the highway, in West Vancouver.
That municipality has 14 off-leash dog areas, including a five-block separated off-leash dog path that runs parallel to the sea wall between 19th and 24th Streets.
The District of Squamish is aiming to pilot four off-leash locations.
The pilot project still has to make its way through council before it becomes a reality.
West Van is 87 square kilometres to Squamish’s 105 square kilometres, so we can certainly accommodate 14 off-leash parks, no?
West Van’s separated dog path is brilliant for a few reasons: it allows people to walk along the community’s waterfront without fear of a conflict with a dog; it allows dog owners the same views and walks as non-dog owners, and it allows pooches to run free.
A win, win, win.
The separated lane has been there as long as West Van municipal staff can remember, they tell The Chief, and when the section of the sea wall was rebuilt in 2003, the dog lanes were reinstated.
Perhaps an idea for potentially high-traffic areas in Squamish at the Newport Beach waterfront once that is built out, or around the new Cheekye Neighbourhood or even in developing areas around Quest University, for example.
The muni could pick up the tab, eventually, for some of these separated areas and perhaps developers could offer these dog-lanes around their large developments?
In West Van, there are also bright red bins for “Dog Waste Only.” This keeps the stinky dog poop from overwhelming other park garbage cans. It is also less of a health and safety issue for sanitation workers who will know what they are getting in what bin. [Ideally, the poop could be composted, rather than tossed in plastic bags and ending up in the landfill.]
The District of West Vancouver plans to expand this program over the next several years to other areas that see a lot of dogs ‘pass through,’ so to speak.
This isn’t to say this all should be done already in Squamish. It is a wishlist, not a criticism. Our town is evolving. West Van has a population of about 42,000 to our 20,000. That is a lot more tax dollars going to that town’s coffers. But if we set our sights on the West Van model, we are aiming for a less conflict-ridden relationship. And that is nothing to bark at.