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Old May 24th, 2002, 10:19 PM
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Neighbours unite to fight proposed leash-free dog park

Neighbours unite to fight proposed leash-free dog park

KITCHENER - Man's best friend may not make the best neighbour.
This is the fear of Waterloo and Kitchener families whose homes border the proposed site for a leash-free dog facility in Bechtel Park.

"From 8 o'clock in the morning, until 11 o'clock at night, all we'll hear is barking," said Robert St. Martin, who lives with his wife, one-year-old son and two dogs along the edge of Bechtel Park, on Bridge Street.

Yesterday, St. Martin and a handful of his Bridge Street neighbours gathered in his kitchen to chat about the drawbacks of the proposed 1.4-hectare (3.6-acre) park, known as Dogerloo.

The fenced-in park will sit in a grassy, natural field behind their backyards, 54 metres from their homes.

The neighbours worry this will ruin their view and their natural playground, putting a long chain-link fence where now there are only wild flowers, tall grass and animals such as foxes and deer.

They also are concerned about the mess, wondering if dog owners will keep on top of their pooper-scooping duties when their furry friends are running free.

Then there's congestion. The neighbours say they will be hounded with cars, foot traffic and paw traffic. And all this excitement could agitate the neighbours' own pet dogs.

"We're not complaining because we hate animals," said St. Martin's wife Claudine, who has two enormous German shepherds. "We all love dogs. We just don't want the park right in our backyards."

The neighbours say other locations would be much more suitable for the leash-free zone.

"There are fields just like this one in (Bechtel) park that would work just as well," said Philippe Chevalier, who lives next door to St. Martin with his wife and teenaged son.

"These fields aren't surrounded by houses."

But the City of Waterloo says any proposed site needs to meet a number of criteria. These include having access to parking, being in a safe location and being in an area that is not environmentally fragile.

The city says other sections of Bechtel Park, as well as other green spaces in Waterloo, do not meet these criteria.

"We have to remember that this is a proposed location," said Mark Hillis, Waterloo's team leader of park services.

"We'll get feedback and then make recommendations to city council based on that feedback."

Hillis and the city has been gathering feedback at two public meetings held this week, one on Wednesday night and one last night. The Bridge Street neighbours attended both of them, voicing all their concerns.

But the dog-park critics fear their worries will be ignored.

"RIM Park left a bad taste in our mouths," said Claudine St. Martin, referring to the financing scandal involving the City of Waterloo and MFP Financial.

"It made us realize how easy it is for the city to steamroll us. We don't know what to believe with them anymore."

"If anything," added Boner Kram, who lives next door to St. Martin, "they should put the dog park at RIM Park. Then it wouldn't bother anybody."

Torstar News Service
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