Resident group researching idea for a new leash-free community dog park
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By Carrie Debrone
Kitchener Citizen
July 1, 2017​​

​A crowd of people and their pets had a dog gone good time at Kitchener’s Knollwood Park event June 25, when a group of residents from the Auditorium and Central Frederick neighbourhoods hosted The Dogs of East Ward: A Canada 150 Celebration.

Invited to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial, the first 150 dogs received goodie bags and ‘Canada 150’ bandanas.

The event was both a unique way to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation and to discover if people in the area want a leash-free dog park in their community.

“It started with the idea that we could have a party for area children and families to celebrate Canada’s 150th, and then the idea just came to me that we could stick with the 150th theme and try to attract 150 dogs and their owners and centre the event around them,” said group member Susan Fulop.

The event included an afternoon mass pack walk, a group photo, a vet who answered questions about dog health, plastic pools for the dogs to cool off in, and crafts for all ages, including one that allowed owners to design their own dog bandana.

Visitors were asked to bring a donation for the food bank or an item needed by the Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society.

Visitors could also fill out a survey that asked if they were interested in having a dog park in their community. Results from the survey were not known by the Kitchener Citizen’s press deadline.

“We don’t know what the results from the survey will be. It could be that only a few people are interested in the idea, or there may be tons of people interested,” said event organizer Donna Cassidy, while helping to stuff goodie bags for the event on the Thursday before the event.

About two months ago, Heinz Koller, another member of the group, developed a “dog density” map using word of mouth, email and a Facebook page. It maps out the homes in the area that have dogs to get an idea of how many pet dogs there are in the two neighbourhoods. So far, map results show 60 to 70 dogs in his neighbourhood, but he said it is far from complete and continues to be a work in progress.

Both Koller and Fulop agree that dogs are great community connectors.

“I think there are 11 dogs on my block of 12 houses alone,” Fulop said.

“You meet a lot of people when you walk your dog,” said Koller, who owns a Shepherd-Chow cross named Jace, and who admits to usually not being very social.

“I wouldn’t have met half of my neighbours if I didn’t walk the dog,” he laughed.

“I’ve talked to a lot of dog owners in the area, and a lot of them tell me what a great thing it would be to have a dog park.” Fulop said, adding that research has shown that off-leash parks allow dogs to socialize more and get more exercise (and in a shorter time) than just walking.

Fulop said it would also be great to be able to walk to a dog park instead of having to drive to one. Currently only two leash-free dog parks exist in Kitchener – at McLennan Park and at Kiwanis Park.

Fulop pointed out that access to the Kiwanis Park location is down a lengthy path, so for seniors, anyone in a wheelchair or with other physical challenges, it can be difficult to get to.

The neighbours group has a few ideas where an off-leash park could be established in their neighbourhood, but they are not ready to discuss possible locations yet.

“We want to hear from dog owners and from people who don’t have dogs,” Cassidy said.

A lot of groundwork has yet to be done - and the first order of business is to find out if there is an appetite for a community dog park, or whether it will be a bone of contention.
Members of a neighbourhood group organizing the Dogs of East Ward: A Canada 150 Celebration stuffed goodie bags that were given to the first 150 dogs who arrived at the sesquicentennial event held June 25 at Knollwood Park in Kitchener. The event was both a unique way to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary and a way to discover if people in the area want a leash-free dog park in their community. From left: Donna Cassidy, Susan Fulop, Martha Kalyniak, Heinz Koller.