Monday, January 3, 2011

TBDA To Improve Local Dog Park

The Toronto Beaches Dog Association (TBDA) has partnered with city's Parks, Forestry and Recreation department to help beautify the off-leash dog area (OLA) at Kew-Balmy Beach. The group is also working with the Kew/Balmy as well as Silver Birch/Nursewood off-leash dog associations on the two-fold project, which includes installing new fencing this winter as well as planting trees, bushes and gardens this spring near the Kew-Balmy OLA.

The TBDA, which has an estimated 350 registered members as well as 400 members on Facebook, is planning on organizing fundraising events this winter to help pay for the improvements. Any extra funds raised will go toward future upgrades, said Chris Yaccato, coordinator/chair of the TDBA, which was formed in April 2009 in response to the city's approval of a controversial plan to ban dogs from Toronto beaches, notably Kew-Balmy Beach. The group succeeded in convincing the city to allow dog owners to walk their pets off-leash at Kew-Balmy and Woodbine beaches "below the snow fence line" from Nov. 1 to March 31. The city has invested $75,000 to install new post and paddle fencing to replace the existing fence at the Kew-Balmy off-leash area. The upgrade will include adding a number of additional entrance and maintenance gates: a double swing maintenance gate and a new double gated area for small dogs as well as a double swing maintenance gate and three double gates at the larger OLA. There will also be a new double swing maintenance gate and a pedestrian gate installed between the two areas, outlined Carol Cormier, the city's manager of parks standards and innovation, in an email to The Mirror.

"The fencing at the Kew-Balmy off-leash area is falling apart. It's rusted and dogs can get out. The gate is falling off its hinges and it just looks ugly," Yaccato said of the well-used local resource. "We need it to be strong and withstand the use. It was built years ago so rightfully so it's just gone downhill." The new fencing should be installed within the next few weeks depending on the weather. The Kew-Balmy OLA will remain open during construction, but as a courtesy to the workers, Yaccato advised people to leash their dogs in that immediate area. Cormier said the city partnered with the TBDA back in September in an effort "to promote responsible dog ownership and improve Kew Gardens and Silver Birch dog off-leash areas." With that in mind, Yaccato encouraged dog owners/walkers to respect the regulations and always use a leash when dog walking is allowed on the city's swimming beaches from Nov. 1 to March 31. "We fought very hard for the off-leash areas and for the off-leash south of the snow fence and we don't want to lose it," he said, encouraging people to take a moment to thank the workers installing the new fencing at the Kew-Balmy OLA for their hard work.

"This is kind of our way of saying thanks to everyone and making sure we have a nice beach to enjoy." Dogs are prohibited on the city's swimming beaches from March 31 to Nov. 1. Working dogs providing a service are allowed on beaches and other parklands on-leash or off-leash at any time. The goal of this regulation is to balance the interests of dog owners with the broader public interest in having clean beaches. Designated off-leash areas at Kew-Balmy and Silver Birch/Nursewood are open throughout the year for public use.