Leashed dogs are allowed on every section of White Rock’s beach, despite what the City of White Rock animal control bylaw or city website says.
The city’s bylaw, and frequently-asked-question webpage, states that dogs are not allowed on the beach at any time. However, the city confirmed to Peace Arch News this week that the city doesn’t have authority to issue tickets on the foreshore.
The city told PAN that staff are now working on amendments to its bylaws that say the city has control over dogs on the beach.
However, dogs are still not permitted on the promenade until a pilot project begins Oct. 1.
Previously, the city held a lease with the provincial government for a portion of the beach, which enabled the municipality to enforce bylaws in the leased area, the city told PAN. However, that lease expired in 2015.
The entirety of White Rock’s beach is within the Boundary Bay Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The WMA is dedicated to the conservation of native wildlife, plants, fish and their habitats.
Recently, the provincial ministry of forests and lands amended a section in the WMA and installed signs at White Rock Beach to let the community know that off-leash dogs are prohibited, but leashed dogs are allowed.
A news release regarding the announcement says the amendments have no impact on “Aboriginal title to the land, nor upon traditional Aboriginal uses and practices on the land.”
A sign notifying people that dogs must be on leash was either stolen or removed from its post this week.
Following the sign placement, Little Campbell Watershed Society director David Riley told PAN that his primary concern is water quality.
“I’d rather you didn’t even write an article. It’s basically acting as an invitation for dog owners to come down here,” said Riley. “It’s going to start an avalanche.”
Another concern, Riley said, is respect for the wishes of Semiahmoo First Nation.
Semiahmoo First Nation has told PAN that their official policy is “no dogs should be allowed anywhere on the foreshore.”
“I would hope that before White Rock amends those bylaws they seriously talk to the province about how we can get all on board, helping our neighbour: the (Semiahmoo First Nation),” Riley said.
A question Riley raised was whether – considering the City of White Rock is without a lease of the foreshore – dogs are technically allowed on the White Rock Pier.
However, city manager of building and bylaw enforcement James Nyhus told PAN via email that the city owns the White Rock Pier, and dogs are not allowed.
“Operation of the Pier, which opened in 1914, predates provincial enactments,” Nyhus wrote. “Dogs are not permitted on the Pier, as indicated in the City of White Rock’s Animal Control Bylaw 2012-1959.”
Riley suggested that the city should ask the province for a memorandum of understanding that would allow the city to extend its bylaw into the Wildlife Management Area.
He also suggested that, perhaps, an outdoor pool be created for dogs.
Allowing dogs on the waterfront has been a particularly polarizing issue for several years, but the debate has picked up steam since the most recent council voted to allow dogs on the promenade for a trial run Oct. 1 to March 31.
Earlier this month, PAN published an article after three members of the City of White Rock’s ‘Dogs on the Promenade Task Force’ independently resigned, leaving the committee dominated by members who are in support of the Oct. 1 bylaw change.
The former task force members called the group “nothing more than a misguided, political partisan process.” However, chairman of the task force Coun. Scott Kristjanson said it’s a “huge misconception” that the task force is biased.
There was also a dog-poop theory making the rounds in the city, after Kristjanson raised allegations that the “No Dog” side was planting dog poop on the waterfront “in an attempt to show how irresponsible down owners are.”
Earlier this year, an annual event that brought more than 100 border collies to East Beach was cancelled after concerns were raised about off-leash dogs in the WMA.