Esther Kwan packed her seven-month old Korean Jindo, JJ, into her car Friday and motored down to Freedom Park, a small, off-leash area in Fleetwood.
When she arrived, there were five other people with dogs – a small group, as that number sometimes reaches 20.
For Kwan, the park is a necessity. Walking JJ on a leash simply wouldn’t do the trick.
“He needs his exercise,” she says.
JJ jumps into the excited cluster of canines, which as a group begin to growl, leap and tumble over each other.
The play is an important part of socialization, and it’s a crucial aspect in raising stable and non-aggressive dogs. This type of interaction can’t occur while a pooch is leashed and walking on pavement.
The demand for off-leash dog parks, by both man and his best friend, is growing.
Acording to figures from a recent study commissioned by the city, Surrey is home to more than 127,000 dogs, exceeding the human populations of most cities in the region.
More than one in four Surrey residents (27 per cent) own a dog.
The high number of canines creates a large demand on park space, prompting the city to adopt its second long-term plan for off-leash parks – the City of Surrey 2012-2021 Off-Leash Area Strategy.
It follows a 2001-2010 study that called for seven dog parks in Surrey, and now that those are built, the city has endorsed a pooch plan – based on a comprehensive $100,000 study – calling for 14 new dog parks by 2021.
Five of those will be cereated between 2012 and 2015, and will be located at:
• A lightly used corner of Bear Creek Park (Newton);
• Pioneer Greenway (South Surrey);
• Fraser View Park (Guildford);
• Panorama Park (Newton); and
• Bolivar Park (Whalley).
Those parks have community support for accommodating canines off-leash, with 94 per cent of people at area open houses supporting the need for more dog parks.
The study found that 38,000 dog owners visit a dog park every week, and almost 13,000 people said they visit one with their dog every day.
That makes for crowded parks, and with the population of pooches growing – city staff say there will be 154,000 by 2021 – there’s a need for more off-leash spaces.
Between 2015 and 2018, Surrey will install six more parks at the following sites:
• Colebrook Park (Panorama Ridge);
• Bonnie Schrenk Park (Fleetwood);
• Cloverdale Hydro right-of-way, near 184 Street (Cloverdale);
• Small corner of Bakerview Park (South Surrey);
• Queen Elizabeth Meadows, southwest of Queen Elizabeth Secondary School (Whalley); and
• Joe Brown Park (West Newton).
Because these won’t be created for some time, Surrey staff plan to undertake another public consultation process to ensure there is enough support for the parks being used for dogs off-leash.
“When we get parks that are far enough out in the future, we wouldn’t rely on what I call stale planning information,” said Surrey’s Manager of Parks Owen Croy.
Croy said the city is confident the first park to be constructed this year will be Pioneer Greenway Park, just to the east of the new Pioneer Overpass in South Surrey.
“It will have a small dog area, a large dog area, and some other amenity features,” Croy said.
After those are built, three more will be added between 2018 to 2021 at:
• Latimer Lake Park (in the southeast corner of Surrey);
• Forsyth Park (west of 140 Street in the City Centre); and
• Port Mann Park (at the old landfill site in northeast Surrey).
Croy said the creation of more off-leash dog parks is an exciting prospect and expands on a growing use for Surrey parks.
“Dog ownership gives people a reason to get out and walk the dog, which not only provides the individual companionship, but outside exercise,” Croy said.
Dog parks not only allow the pets to socialize, he said, but the owners often have the opportunity to engage with other people.
Tom Prentice agrees.
On Friday, he and his 14-year-old son Marcus joined Kwan and the others at Freedom Park.
Marcus got a lesson from dad on how to control their seven-month-old bluenose pitbull, Moto. Like Kwan, he’s here about three times a week.
Prentice is pleased he’ll have another option in Bear Creek Park, which means he’ll be able to walk to an off-leash area rather than drive.
Construction of the new parks begins this year, and judging by the number of tails wagging at Freedom Park, it can’t come too soon.
Here’s the poop on dog waste in Surrey
by Kevin Diakiw
When it comes to poop, Surrey’s 127,000 pups are extremely productive.
In fact, according to recent figures, they generate 48 tons (43,354 kilograms, or 95,580 pounds) of excrement every day.
That’s the equivalent weight of more than 20 pick-up trucks.
A Mustel Group market research study has found there are 127,440 dogs in the city. With the average dog generating less than half-a-kilogram (three-quarters of a pound) of waste every day (according to a recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report), the sheer volume of dog poop becomes a heaping waste disposal issue.
Leaving it in place is not an option as it poses a human health hazard, not to mention the nuisance. As such, the fine in Surrey for failing to “scoop” after a dog is $200.
But either Surrey dog owners are extremely good about picking up poop, or connecting the evidence to the culprit is difficult, because Surrey doesn’t hand out many tickets for dumping dogs and their derelict owners.
In the first nine months of last year, 28 people were nabbed for having dogs at large in Surrey, and six dogs were found with no tag. Failing to fetch feces didn’t even make the top 10 list.
David Justice, who was walks his dog Sunny every day at Freedom Park in Fleetwood, says the majority of dog poop is being left on the ground by owners.
In the back trails at Freedom Park, Justice says there’s a “steaming heap” every few feet.
“It’s just disgusting,” he says. “They should pickup the goddamn stuff.”
What happens to the rest of it?
City staff acknowledge that it ends up in a variety of places – some of it is left where it lands, some is flushed down the toilet, and some is put into garbage cans and eventually taken to the landfill.
The ideal situation, staff say, is to flush dog poop down the toilet, where it would undergo the same treatment as human waste.
It’s understood many people won’t go to that length to dispose of the waste, so city staff ask that people put it in a biodegradable bag, then place that bag within the household garbage bag.
Manager of Parks Owen Croy said the city will soon be exploring ways to compost canine waste.
“We’re looking at best practices from other communities, how to use biodegradable bags (and)… have a composting program that works,” Croy said.
Once the material is composted, it could be used to fertilize plants throughout Surrey parks.
“We have almost 6,500 acres of parkland and many of those areas could used some additional organic materials, so we’ll get going on that in a bigger way in the coming year,” Croy said.