Locals dismayed as possible redesign for North Vancouver park would drastically shrink off-leash dog area | CBC News

Just 15 months old and already weighing more than 65 pounds, Sasha already looks well beyond her age. But at least once a week, the golden-coloured rescue with the dark muzzle makes it clear she’s still a puppy through and through.

“Whenever it’s time to go to Kings Mill, she acts like we’re taking her to Disneyland,” said her owner, Christine Carter.

Carter regularly takes Sasha, a lively cross between a German shepherd and Shiba Inu, to burn off steam at the off-leash area of Kings Mill Walk Park in North Vancouver. 

The long, rectangular stretch of park includes open fields of dirt and grass for dogs to roam, leafy trees for shade and wooden benches for the owners overlooking Burrard Inlet. Low to the ground, there’s a water fountain specifically for the dogs.

The space is a five-minute drive from Carter’s Westview home and became a place of respite after the bounding rescue puppy joined her family last April.

“I’m heartbroken that the animal that has been my support for the past year is now losing one of her favourite places and one of the places where she gets to explore her emotional and physical well-being here as well,” explained Carter, who has lived in North Vancouver since 2002.

The City of North Vancouver is currently redesigning Kings Mill Walk Park and released a new concept map for public feedback last week. Renderings show the off-leash area shrunk to roughly a third of its current size, with the other two-thirds converted into habitat enhancement area.

Sasha, a cross between a German shepherd and a Shiba Inu, is pictured in the off-leash area of Kings Mill Walk Park in North Vancouver, B.C. (Supplied by Christine Carter)

“By reimagining Kings Mill Walk into a neighbourhood dog park, our goal is to support the needs of the changing local community, create an outdoor space that’s enjoyed by all types of users and protect the natural habitat of the park. Neighbourhood dog parks are smaller, but also walkable and more accessible for day-to-day dog life,” reads the city’s website.

David Brun, 62, takes his service dog, Parker, to the off-leash area almost every other night. The 80-pound Labrador retriever needs considerable fenced-in space for adequate exercise, Brun said.

“There’s very few amenities that we can take our dog to, and in this case, my working guide, that enables him to play in a safe surrounding. It’s important to them to have that ability to release that energy that they build up during the day and if that wasn’t there, it becomes a real challenge,” said Brun, adding that he furtively resorted to tennis courts for Parker before he discovered the park.

Brun, who is blind, uses a white cane when Parker is off the harness. He said Kings Mill is by far the best off-leash area when it comes to accessibility.

There are five other off-leash dog parks within the limits of the city. Four of the five are smaller than Kings Mill, while the off-leash portion of Mosquito Creek Park, near the Capilano area, is a forested trail covered in bark mulch. 

David Brun is pictured with his service dog, Parker, at the Kings Mill Walk Park in North Vancouver. (Supplied by David Brun)

“To use a white cane through wood chips … you can get very disorientated in the park very quickly. But with the paved park that runs through the current dog park, it’s very easy to follow,” he said.

The city has working on a redesign of Kings Mill since 2015, hoping upgrades will better preserve the shoreline, meet the need for public washrooms and provide covered gathering spaces. After online public consultations last summer, the city said it had heard from residents who wanted to retain some level of a dog park and protect the surrounding natural habitat.

City welcomes feedback

The city is running a survey this spring for feedback on the draft design concept. Park planners hope to present a finalized plan to city council for approval this summer.

Coun. Tony Valente said the public’s input through the online survey is welcome, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think actually this is a really great time to be getting this feedback because it actually fit in really well with what we’re doing right now, which is the master planning process,” said Valente.

He said a community task force was appointed to help the City of North Vancouver draft the concept for the park and the council’s goal is to be the healthiest small city by focusing on the environment and improving natural habitats.

Construction would begin next year and run until 2024.

A design concept for the redesign of the off-leash area of Kings Mill Walk Park in the City of North Vancouver was released for public feedback in May 2021. It shows the new off-leash zone (hot pink), with the remainder of the original off-leash zone converted into habitat enhancement area (light green). (City of North Vancouver)

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