Dog owners hoping to let their pups run free at the Paul Pelletier dog park in Aylmer last week arrived to discover they were locked out.
By the next day, heavy-duty construction vehicles were seen tearing up the ground in the west Gatineau, Que., neighbourhood where the local school board plans to build a new school.
The construction came as a shock to Steve MacSween, a frequent visitor to the park who said the city failed to give enough warning one of the city's few off-leash parks was closing.
"It's an absolutely incredible lack of respect for a segment of the population," said MacSween. "In the year 2019, project management includes communication."
MacSween said it's the only fenced-off dog park in the area where his English shepherd Jake could exercise off-leash without the fear of him running away.
"It was the safest place for people to exercise their dogs," said MacSween. "It leaves us in a very tough spot."
'We should have planned better'
The park was set up by a grassroots group, the Club Canin Aylmer, and was administered in partnership with the city, according to MacSween.
He said the group was told last year that there were plans to build a new school at the site, but that dog owners were assured a substitute dog park with a fence would open at chemin Allen to the east before work began.
No signage was posted in the days leading up to the closure, MacSween said.
Deschênes Coun. Mike Duggan, who represents the area, said the city could have done a better job of organizing the transition.
"I'm very happy that the construction has started, we really need [the school]," he said. "But we should have planned better for the transition between the two parks."
No replacement park this winter
Duggan said he doesn't expect construction on the new park at chemin Allen to begin until the spring.
He said the city budgeted $190,000 for the park but that the minimum bid it received was $230,000, so there are questions about how the difference will be paid for.
In the meantime, the councillor said he will explore whether it is possible to allow access to the Paul Pelletier dog park without disturbing the construction site.
Loosening dog rules and addressing the lack of dedicated parks has been in the works at Gatineau city council in recent years.
The excavation is making way for a new high school that will serve up to 810 students beginning in the 2020-2021 school year, according to the Portage de l'Outaouais school board's (CPSO) website.
In August, CBC-Radio Canada reported that the land was partially contaminated with mercury, but that it didn't pose a risk to public safety.