Dog parks to face restrictions as Edmonton copes with COVID-19 crisis

Click to play video 'Edmonton dog parks to face more restrictions and some closures during COVID-19 pandemic' Edmonton dog parks to face more restrictions and some closures during COVID-19 pandemic
WATCH ABOVE: Mayor Don Iveson talks about the decision to close four fenced dog parks and have patrols at 38 others to make sure owners are keeping their pets on-leash and complying with distancing rules. – Apr 2, 2020

The list of things that you won’t be able to do in Edmonton continues to grow as city councillors, who extended a local state of local emergency over the COVID-19 crisis on Thursday, heard that dog parks are going to face more restrictions starting Saturday.

“Our decision is on the fenced dog parks that they would be closed [and] parking lots barricaded,” interim city manager Adam Laughlin said. “For the others, they would go from off-leash to on-leash and it would be ongoing enforcement by our peace officers.”

Four dog parks in the city are fenced: Lauderdale, Alex Decoteau, Manning Village and Paisley.

Coun. Scott McKeen fought briefly to have Alex Decoteau stay open because it’s so popular.

“That is an incredibly important amenity for people living in the downtown,” he said.

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READ MORE: Edmonton looking at options to help those who use transit to stay warm during COVID-19 crisis

It’s that popularity that is driving the decision said David Aitken, who is chairing the city’s emergency task force.

“That’s resulting in what we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks of potential overcrowding issues, parking lots being completely full and really, that is taking away from what we’re trying to do.”

Click to play video 'City of Edmonton restricts dog park access, dealing with homeless loitering on transit' City of Edmonton restricts dog park access, dealing with homeless loitering on transit
City of Edmonton restricts dog park access, dealing with homeless loitering on transit – Apr 2, 2020

There are 38 other dog parks that will now be patrolled to make sure owners are keeping their pets on-leash. Laughlin told the city committee they’re watching the forecast and are wanting to make the move soon as the weather improves.

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“This past weekend, staff were monitoring it and there was reasonable compliance,” he said. “We started to see that it was maybe not as well between Saturday and Sunday, and our concern is coming up to this weekend.

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“The week has been cold and it might get warmer on the weekend… [we could] see challenges in terms of enforcement.”

“As of Saturday morning, all dogs within the City of Edmonton are required to be on-leash on public property,” Aitken said.

Watch below: Some videos about updates to the City of Edmonton’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday.

The committee was also warned that more disappointing decisions are coming.

“We think it’s the first step of many,” Aitken said. “We certainly understand the frustration that comes with shutting down those facilities that are well-used. But we think it errs on the side of caution and safety and it’s something that we think is needed.”

Lane closures, to give pedestrians more space to keep their distance, are in the works. Two locations were cited by deputy city manager Gord Cebryk, one on each side of the river: Victoria Promenade (100 Avenue) and Saskatchewan Drive by the university where there is an extra lane.

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READ MORE: Road closures planned for Calgary to give more room for pedestrians and cyclists 

Saskatchewan Drive approaching 99 Street will stay as it is. River Valley Road is being considered as well, but since it’s only two lanes — one in each direction — it’s unlikely. Lane closures are intended to begin this weekend, however, that’s still to be determined.

Laughlin said the city is considering where Victoria Promenade meets River Valley Road and Saskatchewan Drive in the university area. City officials are reviewing how it’s been handled in Calgary and are concerned about more snow removal.

Minor soccer, softball and other sports are also in danger.

“That’s certainly on our radar screen, very concretely,” said deputy city manager Rob Smyth. “We’re working with local sport-governing bodies. We’ll know within the next couple of weeks [that] we’ll have to make that determination. We didn’t want to make it just ourselves as administration.

“There is a significant possibility that overall, it’ll have to be at least delayed and maybe cancelled.”

A move to cancel Edmonton festivals is approaching.

“I wonder if we’re going to have to make a call, as sad as it would be, on a bunch of festivals,” McKeen said. “Because some are probably in some stage of organization and implementation and they might need that call sooner rather than later.”

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“We wanted to do it at the right time in consultation with the groups that are impacted,” said Smyth. “We still have some work to do over the next week to 10 days.”​

Watch below: Some Global News videos from the City of Edmonton’s update on its COVID-19 response plan on Thursday.