The City of North Vancouver has taken a pawsitive step toward making the city a more dog-friendly destination.
Mayor Linda Buchanan spoke up for the city’s furry friends and their owners at the June 7 general council meeting, raising the need for a “city dog strategy.”
She highlighted that since the COVID-19 pandemic struck there had been a notable increase in the number of pooches living in the city, and she had been hearing a lot about a need for more access to dog-friendly spaces.
“We're hearing more reports over the last year of the number of dog owners that we have," Buchanan said. "I would say, 10 years ago, when we came on council, we had Kingsmill Park, and that was it for a dog park. Now I know we have six, but I think we have more work to do around how we can address this.
“I think that we need a particular strategy around dogs in the community. I think they [dogs] are excellent. And again, [provide] that social resiliency and connectedness for many, many people in our community, particularly those who are isolated or live alone.”
Buchanan brought up the idea during discussions on funding allocations for phase two of the city’s COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant rollout.
In November 2020, the provincial government provided the city with a COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant of $5,434,000. The grants were provided across B.C. to help communities with increased operating costs and lower revenue due to the pandemic, and to allow for the continuation of services people depend on.
The city split its funding into three phases. While phase one allocations focused on maintaining operations and planning for city services through the spring and summer, phase two looks at actions the city can take to increase community resiliency.
A total of $2,304,783 has been allocated for phase two, with $1,076,510 going towards building community resiliency, $1,060,000 for city services and $168,283 for business continuity.
As part of funding allocated for community resiliency, Buchanan asked staff to put aside $100,000 for two extra initiatives, including $50,000 toward creating the dog strategy for the city and $50,000 towards exploring and implementing programs, such as the Hey Neighbour Collective, to help neighbours connect in multi-family buildings.
“We've had many times over this course of phases where we've had to be locked down, or back at home,” Buchanan said. “For many, it's been really, really challenging, so I think the more we can do to help people prepare, and the more we can do to really get people to be connecting, the better, particularly within multi-family buildings.”
Councillor Don Bell supported both ideas, saying COVID-19 had further isolated people living in apartments and it was important the city helped create “a sense of community and neighbourliness” for all residents. When it came to the dog strategy, Bell added that through his work on the North Shore Advisory Committee on Disability Issues, people had raised concerns that there weren’t enough dog parks that were accessible to those using wheelchairs and scooters.
“Companion dogs are very important for people with medical challenges, and we need to make sure that they [dog parks] are accessible, and not just through a gate but that they can get in with wheels, for example.”
Buchanan continued that there was lots of work to be done and engagements to be had with dog and pet owners to come up with “a strategy that's going to work for all people.”
“I think they add value and joy, animals, to our lives and into our cities and we want to make sure that both our pets and people are thriving as best they possibly can,” she said.
“We don't have a lot of space in the city but how can we use it and make it the best possible for everyone to be out and about and enjoying themselves.”
Council voted unanimously in support of the phase two funding allocations and adding the extra initiatives.
The community resiliency funding will be spread across a number of areas, including diversity and equity initiatives, a food security project, North Vancouver City Library programs, and to ensure the continuation of North Vancouver Recreation & Culture activities.
Funding will also go towards placemaking, parklets , and open streets initiatives, which offer the community space to connect during COVID, with additional Civic Plaza furniture on the way. The funding will also support additional play features and seating improvements at The Shipyards.
Dogs are welcome in many city parks but must be walked on a leash in most areas. Leash-optional areas are posted and currently include six parks: Lynnmouth, Mosquito Creek West, Mahon, Waterfront North, Kings Mill Walk, and Lower Lonsdale.
Elisia Seeber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore News