OUR VIEW: Parks are public spaces

A recent spate of letters show there’s some disagreement between park users within the Saanich Peninsula area.

A recent spate of letters to the editor show there’s some disagreement between park users — and park users who own dogs — within the Saanich Peninsula area.

The issue has the potential to explode (relatively speaking) into endless bickering over what is, in essence, an argument about manners.

When people visit a local park for any number of reasons, they are expecting to enjoy themselves. Few people are expecting to be accosted in any manner and also hope to have enjoyable encounters with their fellow park users.

If you’re not really wanting any of those things, ask yourself why you are in a public park in the first place.

People go outside and to parks for many reasons. Some to walk and hike, others to run and bike and others to walk their pets.

Public spaces are set up as just that — areas where people can go to enjoy some outside time.

It must be shared in a respectful manner.

In parks where all sorts of users are allowed, space must be respected. It’s the old “do unto others as you, yourself would like done unto you,” or however the saying goes.

Any self-righteous assertion that you are entitled to enjoy your public space dog-free, or jogger-free or bike-free is probably the only thing that should be banned from public spaces where co-existing is the name of the game.

And of course, the key to co-existing in these public spaces is treating each other with respect.

For dog owners, this means keeping your pet under control at all times. For non-pet owners, this means recognizing that people get outside for many reasons — not just your reason.

In all cases, since this is the outdoors and not a controlled space like an electronic device, be ready for the unexpected. How you react to that is entirely up to you and not anyone else. If you choose to react strongly to a dog and its owner, or to a walker reacting to your pet, you’re only making things worse.

Parks are public spaces and are meant to be enjoyed by anyone. The only limits on their use are the limits we place on ourselves — and what we think we are entitled to when we go outside.

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