Mike Armstrong has researched far and wide for communities that don’t welcome dogs at key public gathering places.
But while he’s found restaurants where people can have their four-legged friends tucked at their feet and clothing stores that offer treats to pooches big and small, he’s located just one place on the map – his own City of White Rock – that poo-poos the thought of allowing dogs access to its greatest asset.
The city prohibits dogs from its promenade and beaches year-round, but allows leashed dogs in an area at the far end of West Beach between Bay and High streets from Sept. 16 to May 14. In parks, dogs are allowed but must be leashed at all times.
And the restriction is costing the city business, Armstrong said.
“I just think it’s crazy not to allow them,” he said on a recent visit, with his dog, Scotty, to the parking lot abutting the waterfront.
City manager Peggy Clark said this week that efforts to find a dedicated space for off-leash dogs in White Rock are continuing. But, it’s not an easy road.
“It’s a very challenging situation,” Clark said. “It’s not that we don’t want to.”
Allowing dogs on the promenade, however, is a decision for city council, she said.
Armstrong, a White Rock resident for 14 years, said he regularly walks five-year-old Scotty along Marine Drive, but is frustrated that the walks have to be largely on the street’s north sidewalk, out of sight of much of the area’s natural beauty.
To walk or run his dog anywhere off-leash, he has to leave the city, he said.
And based on SPCA statistics regarding dog ownership, the retired hospitality executive believes he’s among about 4,000 similarly frustrated local residents.
Armstrong decided a year ago to try to change the city’s stance on dogs on the promenade, after White Rock council voted to approve licensing fee increases, more than doubling the rate charged for a spayed or neutered dog, to $25 from $10.
He formed DOG (Dog Owners Group) of White Rock, and created a website (www.dogwhiterock.com) encouraging others to get on board the push for responsible access to all public spaces.
He ramped up efforts for the cause to coincide with the recent municipal election, handing out flyers at local all-candidates’ meetings and asking candidates where they stand on the matter.
He’s hopeful those elected who voiced support during their campaigns – and most did, he said – will now follow through.
Armstrong said the effort is not just about dog owners being able to walk by the water with their pets. Opening up access also means more dog owners will frequent waterfront businesses, he said.
“I’m really more for making Marine Drive vibrant,” he said. “To exclude almost 40 per cent of homeowners… why would you exclude that many people?
“This is the only place that doesn’t allow it.”
While the promenade decision is not in her hands, Clark said city staff continue to look at the feasibility of creating either a designated off-leash park, or an off-leash area within an existing park. Given that most of the city’s parks are quite small, the latter would likely be dedicated to smaller dogs, Clark said.
Clark noted neighbours of Maccaud Park, who were polled recently on what they’d like available at that site (Kent Street, between North Bluff Road and Thrift Avenue), did not suggest the addition of an off-leash area.
Adding the issue only started to come up after the Semiahmoo First Nation fenced off Semiahmoo Park – which many dog owners had treated as an off-leash area for years – Clark said it is not something that will be resolved overnight.