Vancouver dog owners demonstrate against school field closure to public

While signs posted around the school indicate that dogs are allowed on leads after 5 p.m., the gates surrounding the field have been secured with chains.

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For Trina Atchison, finding a place where her dogs can play off-leash has been difficult since the Vancouver school district closed access to a field near her home three months ago.

The 37-year-old, who lives with cystic fibrosis, for years relied on short walks to Sir Charles Tupper Secondary’s north field to allow her canines Riley and Sushi to socialize and exercise.

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“As someone with a physical disability, I can’t go running with my dogs,” she said. “It was essential to have a place within walking distance where I could safely monitor their playtime.”

But in January, Atchison and other Mount Pleasant residents were prohibited from accessing the grassy area and surrounding gravel road. While signs posted around the school indicate that leashed dogs are allowed on the premises after 5 p.m., the gates surrounding the field were secured with metal chains.

Now, Atchison and a group of more than two dozen dog owners in the neighborhood have banded together to demand answers from the school board. So far, the group has sent a flurry of emails seeking answers but has received no response.

“We just want to know what the plan is for this field and why after all these years it is closed for community use,” said resident Tanya Ebach, 44.

Ebach and other local dog owners are concerned about the use of school district funds intended for additional fencing to protect the field from community dogs, rather than for educational purposes.

They noted that the school board’s long-term facilities plan states that it should consider school property for alternative community uses when possible, recognizing that “all taxpayers contribute to the cost of construction and maintenance of local facilities through provincial taxes.” “.

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But on Friday, school board spokeswoman Jiana Chow said that “the district reserves the right to terminate the use of any school facility or grounds” in the event of a violation of expanding its facilities, as a privilege, for use community.

Chow said the district decided to limit access to the field “to preserve the condition of the field, which had been increasingly compromised by extensive damage caused by dogs digging holes.”

“This activity not only posed a safety risk to students and staff as they use the area for outdoor and physical education, but it also conflicted with the district’s policies on facility use, which states that Access is granted as long as public use of school buildings and grounds does not interfere with regular curricular and extracurricular programming,” Chow said in an email.

Since its closure, some locals have resorted to scaling the school’s fences to access the field, and the school board reported “an increase in fence vandalism, resulting in increased use of district resources to make the necessary repairs,” Chow added on Friday.

For Ebach, the unauthorized field was the closest closed off-leash area he could find to take his dog, Memphis. It’s still a two-kilometer walk from his home near Main and East 11th streets.

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“There is no other dog friendly place in Mount Pleasant,” Ebach said.

In 2017, the city’s People, Parks and Dogs strategy, which has the stated goal of providing off-leash areas within a 15-minute walk of most residents, identified Mount Pleasant as the most underserved neighborhood in Vancouver for an off-leash dog area. .

Two new off-leash areas are planned in Vancouver, according to the city. They will be in parks west of Cambie Street: at Heather Park in the South Cambie neighborhood and at Granville Park in Fairview.

Resident Angie Cheung worries that as Mount Pleasant becomes more densely populated in the coming years, the lack of off-leash spaces for dogs in the neighborhood will worsen.

“Multiple residences are being built along Fraser Street and 12th, 13th and 14th Streets have now been zoned for high-rises. Where will all your dogs go? -the 41-year-old man questioned.

Ebach and Cheung agreed that what bothered them most was that the school district or its board never consulted the community about their decision to close public access to the field.

“We were never even given the opportunity to propose possible solutions because the school board refused to even engage in conversation with us,” Cheung said.

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One resident who noticed an increase in dog droppings at the course had been bringing a trash can to the course before its closure, disposing of the dog droppings every night.

Cheung had been taking his Shiba Inu August to the countryside for more than a year. He said meeting regularly with other dog owners in the countryside improved his life.

“We all exchanged messages after our work days to take our dogs to the field at the same time. “I felt very lucky to find a community that helped me train and care for my first dog.”

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