A Toronto Parks and Recreation department’s plan to fence and formally designate an off-leash area in Rennie Park was met with mixed reviews at a town hall meeting earlier this month.
The enclosed off-leash area will encompass 3,500 square metres of land southwest of Swansea Public School’s sports field and adjoining parking lot. The proposed off-leash area is basically the existing space dog owners have already been using for the past seven years, said Carol Cormier, manager of parks standards and innovation.
Presently, the school’s land and adjoining field is a popular spot for sports teams as well as tobogganers and pedestrians. Area residents say it remains unfenced and a very safe and successful neighbourhood facility. Robert Gregoire and his wife live on St. Olave’s Road, a mere 12 metres west of the proposed enclosed off-leash area. Having owned dogs themselves, the couple says that since 2005, they have strived to make the unfenced field and park work.
“We and virtually all the other dog walkers at Swansea field feel the status quo of no enclosed off-leash area – but with improvements for lighting, landscape buffers, signage and ‘poop-n-scoop’ provisions would do well to accommodate almost everyone,” Gregoire said, adding that ongoing and continued “policing” by dog owners and walkers themselves between 5:30 a.m. throughout the day and evening would remain key to its success.
But, the parks and recreation department was asked to look into fencing the leash-free area after the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) reported students were tracking dog feces into the school, according to Cormier.
Cormier said at the Nov. 5 meeting, residents raised a number of issues, particularly surrounding the park’s hours of operation. The city is proposing a 7 a.m. opening while residents want 6 a.m.; community members would like to see a sound barrier installed at the south end of the leash-free zone as well as additional lighting and gates at the ravine.
“We’re looking at planting (as a sound barrier),” she told The Villager, stating the lighting and barrier would be too costly for the city to install. “Maybe the community would like to fundraise for the lighting.”
Parks and rec staff have agreed to meet with those directly impacted by the off-leash area, specifically those on St. Olave’s Road, but there will not be another town hall meeting.
Charles Merivale is one of those St. Olave’s Road residents who says he’s content with the way the park operates. The designated off-leash location in Rennie Park differs from other leash-free zones like in High Park and the one planned for Sir Casimir Gzowski Park on the lakeshore near the Humber River, he said.
“It adjoins private property, which will be affected,” said Merivale. “My garden and others backing onto the park include access gates put in when the area was established in the 1950s, which may be fenced off by this changed use of public parkland, currently available to all.”
It’s the status quo Merivale says he’s happy with.
New signage will indicate where dogs can run freely.
According to Parkdale-High Park Councillor Sarah Doucette, signs don’t currently exist at the park.
“No one knew where the TDSB field ended and where the Rennie Park off-leash area started,” she said.
Commercial dog walkers caring for multiple canines will not be permitted to use the park, she added.
As for the leash-free zone at Sir Casimir Park, “we hope to have it open before end of year,” said Doucette.