May 10, 2014 6:10 pm

Off-leash dog park closure in Maple Ridge brings out more than 100 people in protest

Owners and their dogs showed up to protest the closure of an off-leash area in Maple Ridge.

Cindy Hughes

More than 100 people turned out earlier today to protest the Parks and Leisure Services Commission’s decision to close an off-leash dog park in Maple Ridge.

Volker Park, located at 21113 123 Ave., is being closed due to an escalating conflict between dog owners who use it and residents who live near the leash-free area.

In April, the parks commission posted a two-month notice letting owners know the park was closing; which didn’t make dog owners happy.

WATCH: Protesters rally against closure of off-leash dog park

“I’ve been using this park for three years, I come every day,” said dog owner Simon Matthews.

“[Parks and commission] decided to close the park without any consultation. We’re asking that they delay the decision to close the park for about a year and give us a chance to have the real issues brought to us.”

The issues nearby residents have with the off-leash area, Matthews said, are dust and noise.

“If those are the real issues, that’s something we could address.”

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Ironically, it was only five to six years ago when people started lobbying the city for a place for their dogs to run. According to Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin, after going through a consultation process there were several sites suggested and Volker Park was the one chosen.

Tensions between residents and canine owners has been there for awhile, Daykin said. A few years prior the park had broken glass spread throughout it, as well as tainted food in the park, which made dogs sick.

“It came to a head a month ago and the majority of the parks commission decided to close it with two months notice.”

Daykin said it bothers him they made the decision to close the park with such a short time frame to warn dog owners. There is a need for off-leash parks with 10,000 licensed dog owners in Maple Ridge.

The parks decision has not come to council yet and there is a parks commission meeting scheduled for Thursday night where both delegations will be represented.

Owners and their canines have until June 10 before the park reverts back to a space that will welcome dogs as long as they’re on-leash.

While Daykin said it’s unfortunate the park is being closed before finding another option, he is confident they’ll find another location, which is better suited for a new off-leash dog area.

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