Talking to the NCC
Make a reasonable proposal to the NCC and, er, get nowhere. Glebe resident Robin Quinn, with the support of local dog owners, made a proposal to have the outright ban on walking dogs off leash in Patterson Park amended. Here's the correspondence that resulted.
Letter of 17 Jul 2002
The National Capital Commission
40 Elgin Street, Suite 202
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 1C7
Mr. Marcel Beaudry, Chairperson and C.E.O., Hull, Quebec
Ms. Heather Chiasson, Vice-Chairperson, Ottawa, Ontario
Mr. Jacques Carriere, Commissioner, Aylmer, Quebec
Mr. Marc Denhez, Commissioner, Ottawa, Ontario
Mr. Roland des Groseilliers, Commissioner, Ottawa, Ontario
Ms. Norma Lamont, Commissioner, Ottawa, Ontario
Mr. Francois Pichard, Commissioner, Hull, Quebec
Ms. Michelle Comeau, Vice-President, Environment, Capital Lands and Parks Branch
Mr. Bob Lewis, Director, Urban Lands and Transportation Division; Environment Capital Lands and Parks Branch
Mr. Jean Charbonneau, Land Manager, Urban Lands and Transportation Division; Environment, Capital Lands and Parks Branch
Re: Animal Control Regulations - Patterson Creek Park
This letter carries the general support of approximately 65 dog owners (of about 40 dogs) who exercise their pets off-leash in Patterson Creek Park.
On June 13, 2002, the NCC announced new animal control regulations. A close reading of them revealed that dogs in Patterson Creek Park must now be on-leash at all times during all seasons. Because the Commission lacks justification for this complete change of practice in this park, and a consensus on it, enforcement of this regulation will prove to be onerous and expensive and it will provoke ill will.
This park, south of Linden Terrace and north of the Patterson Creek inlet, remains a long-time, favourite place for Glebe and other residents to exercise their dogs off-leash. In fact, these owners have formed a friendly group who pick-up litter and fecal material left by strays or irregular, careless dog walkers; and who help to protect the park against vandalism during daylight and evening hours. Recently, one warned off a group of youths who were about to break some lights.
On Winterlude weekends, dog owners avoid the Park because of the great increase in its use by skaters and others. During the week when the park was otherwise nearly deserted, dog walkers became a large part of the Ice Cafe's business. For the remainder of the year, there are no special activities.
Factors, Analysis and Discussion
The Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement concluded that fixing on-leash periods was "not feasible" because: (a) of the "extent" of Commission lands to be managed; and (b) unlike municipal parks, some NCC parks are "not necessarily community sites" that neighbours "police". Yet how many of the Commissions' urban parks do enjoy local support and thus would be susceptible to a municipal style of management? The City of Ottawa manages many big and small urban parks with varying uses and locally responsive policies and bylaws. Certainly, Patterson Park has enjoyed much community attention over the years. Hence, it is astonishing that the Commission is unwilling to exercise a similar level of managerial competence.
The NCC has brought no complaints to the attention of the dog owners who use Patterson. Nor have there been other signs of substantial discontent such as through letters to the editor of The Glebe Report or of the Ottawa News.
The park enjoys few users in the morning other than dog walkers, some joggers and a few parents with toddlers. The latter seem to enjoy, for the most part, the variety and playfulness of the dogs present over which the owners exercise attentive supervision. Many of the owners are also parents. During the good weather, however, activities like picnics, sunbathing and play (frisbee, ball throwing, etc.) take place during the late afternoon and early evening.
The erection of temporary signs would obtain good compliance with a leash-on policy during Winterlude weekends.
The City of Ottawa conducted public consultations about dogs and parks some years ago including Central Park (east of Bank Street to O'Connor, divided by Clemow). The result became a successful, shared use policy with specific leash-on periods that is demonstrably self-policing. We think this is a far better approach, and, based on our observations, make the following proposal.
That the NCC amend its regulations to require dogs to be on-leash in Patterson Creek Park during Winterlude weekends and between 4 o'clock, P.M. and 8 o'clock, P.M. during the period May 15 to October 15, inclusive.
Ms. Michelle Comeau, Vice-President
Environment, Capital Lands and Parks Branch
The National Capital Commission
40 Elgin Street, Suite 202
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 1C7
Dear Ms. Comeau
Re: Animal Control Regulations - Patterson Creek Park, Your letter of July 26, 2002
Thank you for your reply of July 26, 2002 to my letter of July 17, 2002.
It would be disingenuous of me to evade the fact that your reply provoked substantial disappointment and exasperation amongst the 60 or more persons with access to our correspondence. I will set out the reactions through a review of the points you made in their order of appearance.
NCC Public Consultation
The NCC public consultation began in Fall, 1999 on proposed regulation of domestic animals on NCC lands. A person, who attended a public meeting at the R.A. Centre, told me, emphatically, the Arboretum, Bruce and Conroy Pits and, Gatineau Park received all the attention.
About two years later (Spring 2001), the Commission published its public consultation report. If it attracted notice, it was not in this neighbourhood. Roughly a year later, on June 13, 2002, the NCC gazetted its regulations. A three-year process hardly holds the public in thrall. Media attention has grown since June. This seems primarily because the NCC wants dog owners not only to stoop and scoop, as they certainly should, but also to take the bag home and NOT to put it into an NCC garbage can. In this regard, we strongly suggest that NCC officials reflect on Voltaire's dictum that the best is the enemy of the good.
The quality of the consultation could, I am sure, provoke some serious and accurate criticism. However, what is important is the result. Our concern focuses on the fact that for Patterson Park, the new regulations unreasonably reverse current practice: dogs must now be on-leash in all seasons at all hours.
Your letter set out three objectives the new Regulations are to achieve, namely:
- To ensure the health, safety and enjoyment of persons using NCC property and persons engaging in activities on NCC property;
- To protect and preserve the environment; and
- To protect and preserve NCC property.
A mixed hours and seasonal approach, as my 17 Jul 02 letter recommended, will in no way undermine any of these objectives. Indeed, it will achieve these objectives better than the approach envisaged by the regulations. Your letter stated that the NCC "studied this suggestion" (on leash/off-leash hours) and had "concluded that it was not feasible as it does not meet the objective to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all users within NCC parks." Actually, the NCC Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement reads as follows:
(iii) Having timed off-leash periods in certain locations. Some persons who responded to the Commission's request for comments on its initial animal control proposal indicated that they want the Commission to permit domestic animals at large in Commission parks during specified periods of the day. The former City of Ottawa operated some of its parks in this fashion.
This is not an acceptable alternative for a number of reasons. It would be impractical for the Commission to enforce different time periods in different parks, given the extent of the Commission's green spaces. As well, such an approach would add complexity to the system at a time when the Commission is seeking simplicity and consistency in the rules that apply to its lands.
Clearly there is a dichotomy between your letter and the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement:
The City of Ottawa continues to operate on-leash, off-leash hours in some parks. Of particular relevance is Central Park, also in the Glebe. A City staff member recently wrote to me that following a detailed examination of complaints, not one, most remarkably, was about dogs in Central Park in the first two quarters of 2002. This demonstrates the efficacy of a self-enforcing consensus approach. As for the "simplicity and consistency" argument, should not the wishes of the taxpaying citizens take priority over bureaucratic nicety?
As I also wrote in my previous letter: The City of Ottawa manages many big and small urban parks with varying uses and locally responsive policies and bylaws. Certainly, Patterson Park has enjoyed much community attention over the years. Hence, it is astonishing that the Commission is unwilling to exercise a similar level of managerial competence.
With regard to your letter's assertion that our proposal "does not meet the objective to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all users within NCC parks" are you arguing that, prior to enforcement of the new regulations, the safety, in particular, and enjoyment of all users of Patterson Park was undermined, for many years, by permitting dogs to run off-leash under the supervision of their owners?
In fact, the requirement to have dogs on-leash at all times will ensure that the majority of users will not enjoy this Park. If the dog must remain on-leash and thereby lose the benefits of strenuous exercise and play with other dogs, then owners and dogs may as well stay on the city sidewalk.
Your letter also indicated that the NCC had taken into account similar regulations in other Canadian cities. What other cities do or don't permit is relevant only if there is useful experience from which to learn. However, in point of fact, on a recent visit to Toronto, we came upon a park, which permitted dogs off-leash, within minutes of leaving our host's home located downtown.
If the NCC maintains its inflexible attitude on Patterson Park, particularly in the face of the efficacy of a proven alternative, then we suggest that it will be unable to enforce this regulation effectively. The regulations envisage enforcement by RCM and municipal Police, and NCC conservation officers, sworn as special constables under the RCMP Act. Because of many higher RCM and Ottawa Police priorities, we can safely surmise that the NCC's small band of conservation officers will carry the total enforcement load at all times, in all seasons. In the absence of a consensus, this will be an onerous, if not impossible, task. Generally unacceptable and unenforceable regulations make bad law and undermine public confidence.
No Exceptional Treatment
Acceptance of the proposal for Patterson Creek Park would not constitute exceptional treatment, if that were even a legitimate concern. The Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement, which accompanied the Regulations in the Canada Gazette, stated that "the Commission will permit domestic animals off-leash at Hillsdale Road, Pine Hill and Stanley Avenue Park" (sic) in the Rockcliffe and New Edinburgh areas.
Presumably, there are not even time restrictions at the above parks. Patterson Creek Park and Stanley Avenue Park are similar in nature and size (2.25 and 2.73 hectares, respectively). So, if the Commission continues to reject our mixed hours approach, why could not the same treatment apply to Patterson Creek Park as for Stanley Avenue Park?
I believe, Ms Comeau, that the position advanced in your July 26, 2002 letter fails to stand-up to close examination. Consequently, I hope that your colleagues and you will carefully review that position in favour of the proposal in my previous letter or of affording treatment similar to Stanley Avenue Park. Please feel free to get in touch for further elaboration and discussion.
For your convenience, please find below a copy of my 17 Jul 02 letter.