Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fighting Erupts Over Proposed North Toronto Dog Park

A leafy, upscale patch of North Toronto is the latest front in tensions over dog parks, with residents ready to bare their teeth during a public meeting Thursday night. Bitterly dividing the Norwood community around Ledbury Park, near Yonge St. and Lawrence Ave., is the future of a fenced-in dog area built by the city at a cost of $40,000 in December 2009.

In one corner are dog owners fighting to keep the enclosure, which city staff and local councillor Karen Stintz say must be moved. In another are parents furiously trying to head off a proposal to relocate it to an open swath of grass used for kids’ games and community events.

In a third are some Melrose Ave. homeowners sharing a back fence with the enclosure. It was their complaints about noise from both pooches and their masters that prompted the city to last year amend its new off-leash policy so enclosures can’t abut homes.

One homeowner, an artist who works from her home, said: “We can’t open our doors or windows, there’s so much noise. . . . I’ve stopped gardening altogether. “The area slopes down to the off-leash area almost like a mini-amphitheatre. We hear the dogs panting, never mind barking, and the loud coaching of dogs and talking almost never stops.” She asked that her name not be published, noting that, after her husband held a video camera over the fence to record one noisy scene, a dog owner found her email address and sent a message berating them.

Beverly Ross, a “point person” for the dog owners, counters that the area tucked in the back of the park was used as an off-leash area before the enclosure was built, but dogs ran everywhere and feces dotted the park.
“It was awful, total bedlam,” she said, calling the homeowner complaints an overblown reaction to the inevitable downside of living next to public green space.

At a public meeting in March, following one in December, staff suggested moving the enclosure to a smaller grassy swath facing Ledbury St., with no abutting of homes. Ross said most left the meeting satisfied.
But as word spread, a citizen group, Save Ledbury Park, formed to protect the area often used by children playing games and for community events, compared to the relatively secluded dog enclosure. Read more at www.thestar.com.