Crescent Park — a jewel in the heart of Moose Jaw — will continue to remain free of dogs and bicyclists for the foreseeable future.
The health and safety of children and seniors, the tranquility of the park, and some negative emails from residents all factored into city council’s discussion during the Sept. 9 regular meeting about removing signage that prohibited dogs and bikes from Crescent Park.
Coun. Chris Warren — who proposed the motion — made a plea to open the park to dogs and bikes, but in the end, council voted 4-3 against allowing leashed pets in the park. Mayor Fraser Tolmie and councillors Scott McMann, Heather Eby and Brian Swanson were opposed, while councillors Crystal Froese, Dawn Luhning and Warren were in favour.
Council also voted 5-2 against removing the signage so bicyclists could use the park. Warren and Luhning were in favour, while everyone else was opposed.
Many people emailed Warren saying dogs and bikes should be allowed in the park, he said. Those in favour said most major cities encourage leashed pets and cyclists to use green spaces. They also said parks should be family-friendly and allow pets, plus children on bikes.
“We need to be a progressive community,” he said.
Warren looked at seven other cities and found they allow dogs and bikes in their parks. Meanwhile, he found that Wakamow Valley also allows leashed dogs and bikes, with very few issues there either.
City hall has received 10 complaints about dogs in parks since 2017 and only two complaints about bike/pedestrian issues, he continued. The municipality also has an Official Community Plan that encourages alternative forms of transportation, such as biking, walking and public transit.
“The recreational objectives in section 13 are to provide an open space to meet the needs of Moose Jaw residents (and) that aids in attraction and retention of young families,” Warren said. “Allowing dogs and bikes in Crescent Park will promote cycling and help families.”
In one email received and included in the council package, a resident wondered if Warren had ever visited the 28-acre Crescent Park. With a chuckle, he said he had been there recently with his kids for a picnic. He noticed 10 people in that time, which translated into each person having 2.8 acres to themselves.
“I wondered why there weren’t more people there,” he added. “This is the heart and soul of the community.”
Crescent Park is underused and opening it up could draw more people, said Luhning. It would beneficial if there were doggy pickup bags at all entrances and inside so pet owners knew they had to clean up after their dogs.
“Maybe there is the possibility that because Crescent Park is the jewel of the city that if somebody gets caught,” she laughed, “that the fine is that much more expensive in Crescent Park.”
Eby walks everywhere in Moose Jaw and sees dog poop regularly, she said. The bylaw around picking up after animals is obviously not being enforced and she wondered who could possibly enforce it successfully. She wanted to take her grandchildren to Crescent Park without them stepping in feces.
Moose Jaw is fortunate to have a great trail system with many paths that cyclists and dog walkers can use, she continued. She pointed out residents begged council to build an off-leash dog park years ago, with the promise that dog poop would be picked up.
“I have been told that you can’t walk through there without walking through dog poop…,” she said. “Crescent Park is a jewel and I want it to stay a jewel.”
Having lived near the Sunningdale neighbourhood, McMann pointed out he too saw dog owners not pick up after their pets. While some residents support this, he didn’t think there was a large enough demand to change the rules.
The next regular council meeting is Sept. 23.