At the July 9 2018 Regular Council meeting, two representatives from CRD Parks and Trails gave an overview of history leading up to this year’s Bylaw No. 4225, “Capital Regional District Parks Regulation Bylaw No. 1, 2018.”
The key changes in the Bylaw No. 4225 included the following:
- A provision to limit the number of dogs allowed per commercial dog walker to a maximum of eight (8).
- The addition of a schedule to the bylaw describing the areas in regional parks and trails where dogs are required to be on leash, as is consistent with Board approved Park Management Plans.
- Removing seasonal dog prohibitions from tidal beach areas where the CRD does not have jurisdiction.
- Making administrative updates to ensure consistent wording and to adjust section numbers to accommodate new regulations.
This repeal and replace was voted on and passed by the CRD Board on February 21, 2018. The meeting minutes show that the motion was moved by Alternate CRD Director (and Sooke Councillor) Rick Kasper. The motion carried. In later discussion, Councillor Brenda Parkinson made the point Council was present for the vote, and it was up to that council member to bring these changes back to the District.
History of the CRD parks management plans
The information presented by the CRD Parks and Trails to Council included the following history of the development of management plans:
Sooke Hills Wilderness Management Plan
- 1999 Management plan started
- 1999, 2000 Two rounds of public consultation including public meetings, newsletters, online comment forms
- 2000 Public meeting to review draft plan
- 2001 Plan approved by CRD Board
At that time, their draft management plan included dogs on leash proposal, the majority of comments supported dogs on leash, and Sooke Council invited to comment on draft plan but no comments were ever received. (Sooke was incorporated in 1999.)
Sea to Sea Management Plan, which included four parks: Sea to Sea, Sooke Potholes, Ayum Creek, and Kapoor
- 2006 their Sea to Sea Management plan started
- 2006, 2009 Two rounds of public consultation including public meetings, newsletters, online comment forms
- 2010 Presentation to Sooke Council
- 2010 Plan approved by CRD Board
That draft management plan included dogs on leash proposal, and the majority of the comments forwarded to the CRD favoured dogs on leashes.
Galloping Goose Management Plan
- 2013 Management plan started
- 2013 User survey
- 2014, 2016 Two rounds of public consultation including public meetings, newsletters, online comment forms
- 2016 Plan approved by CRD Board
Again, their draft management plan included dogs on leash proposal, and there was strong public support for dogs on leash. A draft plan was referred to all municipalities, with no comments received from Sooke Council.
At this time, the presenters noted that they were only issuing warning notices. The current role is more informational than fining people, and they are seeking voluntary participation with the new regulations.
Sooke Council’s take
Councillor Kerrie Reay noted that she’s been a councillor for two terms and CRD has never come before Sooke Council during that time. The on-leash requirement does not make sense to her, and she is an avid user of that part of the trail. She strongly felt there was no need to regulate that park of the trail, and stated she would like to see some rethinking of that segment, instead of having a sweeping policy. The sweeping brush policy, she said, was creating a lot of problems with Sooke dog owners. She also added that public consultation in 2009 doesn’t quite cut it for 2018. Reay heard that the signs went up because of complaints from the cycling/racing community, and asked if CRD would consider coming back to Sooke for some current consultation.
Councillor Rick Kasper asked about incidents. The CRD Parks representative noted they’ve hired a “dog officer” to look specifically at dog issues and capture in-the-field information. In 2019, their intention is to bring that information back to the board to guide future decisions. This is observation period, but the dog on leash regulations stand as they are a part of the existing bylaw.
Councillor Ebony Logins asked why the change was made before any evidence was gathered. The CRD representative said this was made through the program management process. Generally speaking, provincial parks do not allow dogs off-leash. Logins asked why is money being put to researching the statistics, after the decision has already been made and the bylaw passed. She said it was as though they were looking for evidence to support the already-made change.
Councillor Kevin Pearson noted that five parks in Sooke were “broad brushed,” and he asked the CRD to revisit the blanket policy. Parts of the Potholes are suited for off leash. Sooke was not given an opportunity for input.
Councillor Brenda Parkinson took a different angle. She asked if this plan went to the CRD board, and if so, how did Sooke vote? The CRD responded that the leash regulations were was adopted back in 2016, and originally drafted in 2001. Parkinson made the note that Council was present for the vote, and it was up to that council member to bring these changes back to the District. She called for a balanced considering both wildlife and the dogs. Regional Parks committee would have made their recommendations and presented it to the board.
Sooke public clearly unhappy (if names are misspelled, please contact SPN)
Phil Rossner lives on Sooke River Road and takes his dog up to the Galloping Goose, and he’s never even seen a sign. He noted that one website said to keep your dog under control or on the leash, and added that people are often more disruptive to the environment than dogs.
Pheobe Dunbar has been on the trails for years and thinks it is really important for the users to be a part of the consultation by the CRD. In all her days, she said she’s never seen a conflict, and felt that consultation needs to include the people in Sooke.
Derek Lewers said the CRD could take a lesson from the school board in that one size doesn’t fit all. The CRD Board is mostly represented by the Mayors. Sooke’s voice is seldom heard, and when it is heard it has no sway.
Gail Hall noted that all trails are not the same, with rural and urban differences. How can you put rules down on a wide range of trails that are unequal? It’s easier to make one-suits-all signs, but it’s not appropriate to the usage. The brush stroke approach is not good for Sooke. “We need to stand our ground and ask for something better.”
Aliesha wondered why East Sooke is off leash and under control, and why that can’t be applied to Sooke. Her dogs are under her control, and were so when she ran into bylaw enforcement officers, twice. But clearly her dogs were under control. She’s from Shirley and now has to drive 45 minutes to walk her dog unleashed. Why not go after those out-of-control, she asked.
Bell Scott found a few things distressing. The 20K speed limit on Sooke River Road leading up to the Potholes certainly wasn’t enforced, and speeding cars are far more dangerous to nature than an incontrol unleashed dog. The campground has generated a lot of traffic, and the sides of the roads look like they’ve been covered in concrete with the large amount of kicked-up dust. She has four dogs, that are all very well trained. The dog walkers are being targeted, when the problems are many (including the CRD).
Al Beddows noted that the CRD is supposed to serve the people, and estimated that 90% of the people who use the trail are Sooke people, esp between Oct to March. “They are not serving us well,” he said. He hasn’t seen a problem with dogs on the trails in the 28 years he’s been here. He, too, would like to see Sooke people have some say.
Lisa Coburn has an SPCA dog and made the note that the cyclists pose a significant risk on the trails as well.
Ellen Lewers added that cyclists are often startling, and that they should be required to have (and use) bells.
The CRD representatives noted that a dog management plan that has been adopted. Public consultation at this point would set up expectations that can’t be met. In order to initiate change, Council would have to make a presentation to the Board asking for a change. That would set the wheels in motion.
Mayor Maja Tait added that in 2019 there would be recommendations going back to the board based on observation, and Sooke Council can put a recommendation to the Parks Committee. There was one coming up quickly and there would be no time to prepare property for that. The next meeting (and only meeting before the election) would be September. She added that even Council has only five more Council meetings before the election, so the crafting of a response needs to be attended to. There’s time, she said, but not a lot.
Attendance: Mayor Maja Tait and Councillors Ebony Logins, Kevin Pearson, Brenda Parkinson, Rick Kasper, Kerrie Reay,
Also discussed at the July 9 Council meeting
- SD62 plans to add 560 seats for students in Sooke schools over the next 10 years
- Presentation prompts council to request draft bylaw banning single use plastic bags
- CRD Parks hear an earful from Sooke on leashed dog policy
- Delegation to Council details expanded RCMP Musical Ride tickets sales, unveils preshow, announces free concert
- Members of Affordable Housing Committee appointed