The issue of an off-leash dog park was resurrected at a recent district council meeting when Sooke resident Robert Whittet asked councillors to do something about it.
Whittet recounted how he was “busted” by Capital Regional District bylaw officers on the Sooke portion of the Galloping Goose Trail where he was issued a warning ticket for having his six-month-old puppy off leash.
“There was no one around. It was me, my puppy, and three CRD guys. That’s it. Yet they felt it was necessary to give me a ticket,” Whittet said.
The experience motivated him to delve into the CRD’s regulations on off-leash dogs, and he discovered in the entire CRD there were only seven parks listed as on-leash.
“Of the seven on-leash parks, five are situated in Sooke. That tells me the CRD doesn’t view the people of Sooke to be responsible enough to control their dogs. It’s insulting,” Whittet said.
It’s an issue that’s been around since 2011 when Sooke municipal staff were directed to work toward the development of an off-leash park. Several more resolutions, pretty much mirroring the 2011 motion continued for another three years, without a park established.
In 2015, Sooke council was again petitioned to establish a dog park, this time in the Ponds Park corridor, off Church Road.
Council reacted to the petition by directing staff to again research the question and conduct a public consultation process.
No dog park was established.
The issue was raised again a year later when the parks and trails advisory committee recommended another public consultation process and then referred the matter to the community development committee. That committee was never struck, and the issue died.
In 2018 when council heard the CRD was implementing new regulations on off-leash dogs in parks, councillors passed another resolution calling for the regional district to reconsider adding a provision to the regional trails management plan to permit 0ff-leash dogs on the Sea-to-Sea Park trails, the Galloping Goose Trail, and the trails and areas surrounding the Sooke River Potholes.
The CRD received that request and ignored it.
But Whittet is hopeful this time around Sooke council may do something about the situation.
“This issue has been around for a long time, and this time out, we are going to keep on it. I agree that Sooke seems to be singled out for the most restrictive off-leash rules in the CRD and that needs to change,”Mayor Maja Tait said.
“We’re starting to see some developments in town where dog parks are being considered, and that’s a good thing as well.”