KILCONA DOG PARK CLUB (KPDC) – THE FIRST TEN YEARS
Kilcona Dog Park was once an industrial wasteland, an” out of sight, out of mind” corner of the city where Winnipeggers disposed of their household garbage, yard waste and junk. Old tires and batteries, unwanted furniture, unusable construction materials, toxic pesticides, petroleum products and other hazardous materials lie buried beneath the dog park.
In spite of its humble pedigree, the dog park is a special place for many. Shanell Dupas, a creative writing student at Red River College sums up why she loves bringing her dog Sadie to the off-leash area.
“Everyone has their home away from home where they go to relax and get away from everything. My favourite place is a weird Winnipeg gem. It’s between a busy highway and junkyards that often have cars that explode when they crush them (don’t worry; it just makes things shake for a moment). That place, for me, is the front of Kilcona Park, one of Winnipeg’s leash-less dog parks. Why a dog park?
My dog is always so happy and the feelings rub off on me. The second we pull up in the car, Sadie starts freaking out. She can’t sit still in her seat because she’s so anxious to get out of the car and run. Sadie knows the word “park” well, and perks up every time she hears it. I’ve always wondered what goes through her doggy mind as she trots along, but I imagine it’s something like: “I’m so happy; I’m going to smell this tree, get a drink of water. Oh another dog! I’m so happy!” Seeing her without a care in the world makes me rethink everything. She helps me realize that the small wonders in life – like chasing a frog – are the best.
The people are always the nicest. Dog owners out there have probably all had the time that you go out for a walk and forget to bring a baggy. There’s always someone at Kilcona that has a spare bag, or a treat for Sadie, or will even give me advice. Sadie has jealously problems, and doesn’t like me petting other dogs. I’ve had people at the park give me tips on how to make her calm down. The people there are always willing to talk, and it’s awesome when Sadie and I both make new friends.
Photo Credits: Colleen Blouin
Yes, Kilcona Park is between a highway and a bunch of junkyards… but once I’m by the little lake, or climbing up a hill that’s surrounded by trees I can never tell. Everything’s quiet other than the odd dog barking and birds chirping. It’s perfect for walking and thinking about nothing in particular.
Photo credits: Vince Pahkala
Even if you don’t have a dog, Kilcona Park is a great place to go wander around (as long as you’re okay with dogs, of course)!”
Photo credit: Carrie Bazylewski
The landfill at Lagimodiere and Springfield opened on March 15, 1978. By 1986 it had surpassed its nine-year life expectancy and the Province ordered it closed. The City locked the gates on December 31, 1986, a move that was applauded by neighbouring residents, especially those on Knowles Avenue and Cox Boulevard , living in the shadow of the dump. Shirley Timm-Rudolph, the Councillor for Springfield Ward at the time, told Free Press reporter Randy Turner,
“They’ve been praying for this to happen. They’ve been dealing with all kinds of problems such as blowing garbage and smoke from trash fires.” (Winnipeg Free Press – January 3, 1987)
In 1987 the dump was capped with eight feet of mud and incorporated into Kilcona, Winnipeg’s largest regional park. Two grassy hills rising out of the prairie landscape remind us of the park’s heritage – a large mound in the off-leash area and a smaller one that underlies the Chris McCubbins Trails.
In the years since the dump closed, nature has done a remarkable job of reclaiming the landscape.
Photo credits: Vince Pahkala
And there have been many other man-made changes. In the 1990’s, part of the park was set aside as an off-leash area. The dog park has since grown to twice its original size. An extensive network of trails has been developed and there are maps and signs so dog owners don’t get lost anymore. Trees have been planted, there are benches along the trails and picnic tables were people can rest, relax and visit with friends.
Photo credit: Carrie Bazylewski
Giant underground litter containers and bag dispensers along the trails make it easier for those who care to keep the park clean, and the access road off Lagimodiere has been paved. The handful of dog owners who visited the park in the early years has grown to become a sizeable community.
Over the years, Kilcona Dog Park volunteers have worked tirelessly, committing time and energy to protecting and improving the park. This retrospective was prepared in celebration of Kilcona Park Dog Club’s tenth anniversary.
In the Beginning
Winnipeg’s first off-leash dog parks opened on July 23, 1998. At Kilcona Park, the area north of the parking lot was designated as off-leash space.
Kilcona’s official off-leash area July 1998
In announcing the creation of eleven new dog parks, Winnipeg’s Manager of Animal Service, Tim Dack said,
“Off-leash areas have been very successful in other communities. We’re very pleased to be introducing the concept to Winnipeg. For the first time, Winnipeg dog owners will have places to run their pets legally off-leash. These off-leash parks will provide dogs with much needed opportunities for exercise and socialization, leading to healthier, happier pets.”
The Early Years – 1998 to 2003
Wayne L’Esperance (aka “The Dogfather”) is one of Kilcona Dog Park’s pioneers. He began taking Kodi and Willy to the park in 1998. His early efforts to promote a friendlier, more pleasant experience helped foster the development of a community of responsible dog owners. He regularly greeted new dog owners, showed them the trails and explained dog park etiquette. Hounding people to pick up after their dogs earned Wayne the nickname “Park Ranger”.
Wayne L’Esperance “The Dogfather”
Photo credit: Virginia Mikolayenko
In 2000 Wayne, Debbie Hughes and a few other park friends organized the first Spring Clean-up. The group was joined by a couple of dozen dog owners who were walking their dogs. Responding to popular demand for this service, Wayne continued to organize spring clean-ups over the years.
To encourage people to pick up after their dogs, Wayne constructed a large storage bin stocked with grocery bags and installed homemade bag dispensers along the trails.
Creation of Kilcona Park Dog Club – 2003
By 2003, Kilcona’s off-leash area was becoming a popular destination for dog owners. Safety had become a serious concern, especially at night. Without lights in the parking lot, vehicle break-ins and vandalism were regular occurrences.
Dog owners began sharing their wish lists for park improvements and in October 2003, they formed Kilcona Park Dog Club. While the club had no formal structure, it did have a clearly articulated mandate: to maintain and improve the off-leash area, advocate on behalf of Kilcona’s dog community and promote responsible pet ownership. The group drew up a list of recommendations to improve the off-leash area.
As head of the new club, Wayne took dog owners’ concerns to City Hall. In December 2003 he presented a petition signed by two hundred Kilcona dog owners, along with a list of concerns and recommendations, to East Kildonan-Transcona Community Committee Councillors Mark Lubosch (North Kildonan, Lillian Thomas (East Kildonan) and Russ Wyatt (Transcona).
Photo credit: Winnipeg Sun
Wayne drew the Councillors’ attention to the increasing number of dog walkers using the park year round and asked the City to implement the club’s recommendations:
• Install lights in the parking lot to improve safety and security;
• Plant pine or spruce trees on or near the hill to provide shelter from the wind;
• Add more litter baskets to improve park cleanliness;
• Install park benches or picnic tables;
• Open washrooms in the evenings;
• Add more gravel to repair muddy service roads;
• Create a hiking trail around the crest of the west hill;
• Provide seasonal access to clean drinking water;
• Designate the southeast portion of the park as off-leash.
The club’s presentation was well received.
“The city plans to revamp Kilcona Park, making it safer and friendlier for dogs and their owners. Changes to the off-leash portion of the park, which could include the addition of parking lot lights, more trees and extra walking paths are being considered.
Councillor Russ Wyatt (Transcona) says he is impressed with the initiative of Kilcona Park Dog Club. “It’s a wonderful thing that so many people are using a walking trail around the old landfill and that they’ve taken ownership to make these changes.”
Wyatt says the dog club’s recommendations make sense, adding the improvements could happen as early as spring.” (Winnipeg Free Press – December 17, 2003)
There was a welcome outcome of the meeting that no one had anticipated – an unofficial policy that dog owners could continue to walk their dogs off-leash in on-leash areas as long as there were no complaints from other park users.
For the next six years, the City would turn a blind eye to official off-leash area boundaries. The sheltered Forest Trail and the pond trails were winter favorites. In summer people and dogs flocked to the grassy trails on the East Hill where breezes kept mosquitoes at bay.
Pond Trail East Hill Trail
Photo credit: Colleen Blouin Photo credit: Greg Conn
For dogs and dog owners, this was Kilcona’s “Golden Age”.
Photo credit: Aga Wyskwyr
Zach and Stryder
Photo credit: Kathy Frost
Photo credit: Vince Pahkala
Some of the improvements the club recommended to the EKT Community Committee happened quickly – the City installed parking lot lights the following year. Some took several years, and some – like clean drinking water – have not yet happened.
KPDC Fundraising – 2006 to 2009
In 2006 KPDC held its first fundraising BBQ, which has since become an annual event. With the money it raised the club purchased picnic tables for the off-leash area and donated to local animal shelters.
Linda Loewen and John Heide selling drinks
Photo credit: Maureen Heide
Conflict and Crisis – 2009
By 2009 the use of the city’s largest off-leash area had increased significantly. Its extensive system of well-maintained trails was busy all year round – at all hours of the day and night. It was especially busy on warm summer evenings and weekends.
Photo credit: Colleen Blouin
As new people came to the park they quickly learned about the City’s unofficial policy that allowed them to walk their dogs in the on-leash area as long as other park visitors didn’t complain.
But six years of unfettered doggy freedom was about to end. With record numbers of dogs running loose in the park and increasingly – unclaimed piles of dog feces accumulating in the on-leash area – user conflict was inevitable.
Other park visitors complained loudly – to 311, Winnipeg Animal Services, the EKT Community Committee and the media.
“This is to all the dog owners who walk their dogs at Kilcona Park (or anywhere else for that matter). Kilcona Park has on off-leash section which is great for dogs. I have taken my dog there myself. However, I was disgusted recently when I went to play baseball at the amount of feces all over the park. The park is not made for those of you too irresponsible to clean up after your dog. Off leash does not mean “public dumping grounds”… Clean up your dog poop! (Winnipeg Free Press Letters to the Editor – August 26, 2009)
When letters of complaint finally reached the East Kildonan-Transcona Community Committee, the Councillors directed the Winnipeg Public Service to investigate the situation, to improve off-leash area signage and increase enforcement at Kilcona. Winnipeg Animal Services Officers stepped up park patrols and began enforcing off-leash laws rigorously.
Outraged dog owners exploded on Facebook.
“Well, it looks like the City of Winnipeg gestapo are at it again. They now have erected new signs for the designated off-leash area and we saw them driving around ticketing people on the south hill on Wed. morning…I guess somebody complained (par for the course every year) and this time they are really cracking down as the City probably sees this as a good chance for a ‘cash grab’. So have an eye, fellow dog-walkers!”
“On Friday a.m., on the south hill (in an area which nobody except dog-walkers ever use) a fellow dog-walker got fined for walking their dog off-leash. The fine…$300!!! Yes, you read it right…$300.00!!! Now…I have been criticized for calling this “swarm” a cash grab…but if that ain’t a cash grab…I don’t know what is. Even red-light tickets don’t cost that much. And I don’t know how many other $300 fines they passed out that morning, but it would add up to a pretty tidy sum for a nice luncheon down at City Hall.”
“The city has always recognized that the dog owners use the whole park as per why they plow the entire park in the winter for those walking dogs as no one else is using it then.”
“We’ve been going to this park for 7 years and have never had a problem and the park has been plowed/ mowed the whole way around. I think it’s a cash grab by the city and also a response to any baseball players that have complained.” Reference: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2651440860/
Dog park activist, Maureen Heide met with North Kildonan Councillor Jeff Browaty, the park foreman and representatives of Winnipeg Animal Services.
Posting on Facebook, Maureen advised Kilcona dog owners,
“The outcome was not uplifting. I personally spoke with some of these people, and they stated that they received complaints from people using the athletic fields; they also said the park workers (those who ride on the ATV’s to dump the garbage, etc) have been “mauled” by dogs at the park. They also said they received complaints from joggers & cyclists (can we count ’em on one hand ?) and that they are scared to use the park space because of the dogs.
When I confronted them regarding everything that we put up with at the park, for e.g. vandalism, drug deals, snowmobiles, speeding, & litter from the “athletes”, they said no complaints were ever received. Sooo….we must start complaining about all the crap that goes on here, instead of just passively letting it go!!!! That is the only way we will be heard!”.
Reporting on the conflict, Sun Media reporter Adam Wazny wrote,
“Over the summer the city received complaints from non-dog owners being bothered by canines on the baseball diamond and on the trails.
Signage telling owners where their dogs can and cannot be was inconsistent at best, and the city’s animal services department was called in to help keep a close tab on the situation.
All that did was tip the complaint balance in the other direction, with city workers grumbling about abuse.
“I’ve been getting complaints from city employees who literally have had dog poop thrown at them by angry dog owners,” said North Kildonan Councillor, Jeff Browaty.” (Winnipeg Sun, September 26, 2009)
The Petition and Rally
In response to the City’s enforcement of off-leash boundaries, dog park activists Maureen Heide and Linda Logan organized a petition. With the help of volunteers, they collected signatures of 1,200 dog owners and tracked how frequently people were bringing their dogs to the park.
Kilcona’s official off-leash area September 2009
Expressing the views of many Kilcona off-leash area users, Maureen Heide and Tony Zerucha said dog walkers had simply outgrown the original off-leash space. They wanted to see the dog park officially expanded.
The group organized a rally to show the City their support for the dog park and to demonstrate that there were enough dog owners to warrant an expansion to the off-leash area. On September 26, 2009 three hundred dog owners gathered at Kilcona, along with reporters from CBC News, CTV News, Winnipeg Free Press, and The Herald.
Photo credit: www.chrisd.ca
North Kildonan Councillor Jeff Browaty attended the rally. He told dog owners the city was considering making improvements to the park and expanding the off-leash area.
“Because [dog owners] are the majority users of this park, it only makes sense to take a look again to see what the actual boundaries are,” said Browaty. http://winnipeg.ctvnews.ca/dog-owners-rally-for-new-rules-at-kilcona-park-1.438061#ixzz2s2hRhbDy
Winnipeg Free Press Reporter, Charlene Adams covered the event.
Photo credit: Carrie Bazylewski
“The day of the rally was a beautiful autumn Saturday. Had there been no organized gathering, you could have counted park users on one hand (and half of them were walking their dogs in the distance). The possibility of fines has forced off-leash users to stay within the small designated area. This run takes a mere 20 minutes to complete. My cats wouldn’t even break a sweat meandering within the space.
It wasn’t always this way. For 11 years, dog owners had used the east hill, the south hill and the forest to augment their walks. The space was a flurry of dog activity. Pups chased Frisbees, swam in the ponds and ran free to roll in dirt. Now, however, they’re glued to a north area off McIver Avenue. Heide told me that the east hill and forest now are off limits to all dogs, leashed or otherwise.
According to the Kilcona Park Dog Club, dog owners walk their pooches in the park, on average, five times a week. This equates to 104,000 walks a year.
Heide admits not all dog owners are perfect. Some don’t clean up after their pups. And those who consider the entire park as a grandfathered off-leash zone ignore areas geared to on-leash use. Dogs have roamed onto soccer pitches and baseball diamonds during games. It’s unsafe for players.
Before the rally, Councillor Jeff Browaty said half-dozen complaints caused the city to inspect the park’s use. Animal Services employees were called to enforce bylaws. It always seems to work this way. Those few bad owners, who allow their dogs to run toward strangers or leave feces for park crews, threaten to spoil it for the majority.
As we walked around Kilcona Park, Browaty revealed that inadequate signage had been a problem. It’s caused confusion. But he’s committed to changing things.
Tony Zerucha, another Kilcona Park Dog Club member, suggested seasonal or time restrictions for dog owners wanting to create an expanded off-leash zone. This way, the park wouldn’t be left dormant during winter or when organized games aren’t being played. Additional garbage pickups, added wood chips in spring, shovelled winter paths and supplied bags were some of the many suggestions Browaty fielded.
The councillor respects that organized sports and lone sport enthusiasts have rights to the park. But Browaty also recognizes that multi-purpose park spaces include dog owners. He even suggested that he’d like to expand the off-leash area.
As the councillor scanned the forested park area, Browaty mused about Kilcona being attractive enough to entice Winnipeggers to move to North Kildonan. He might be right.” (Winnipeg Free Press – October 6, 2009)
Event organizer Tony Zerucha explained that the idea for the rally came from a rumour the city was planning to downsize the off-leash area.
“It turned out not to be true, but what we wanted to do was to illustrate to the public and the city how important this park is to the community,” said Zerucha. (Winnipeg Sun – September 26, 2009)
Photo credit: Carrie Bazylewski
Councillors Jeff Browaty & Lillian Thomas
City of Winnipeg Parks & Recreation
The purpose of this petition and the Rally of September 26 is to show the public, City Council and municipal staff how many dog walkers use Kilcona Park and how much we appreciate it. As you know, there are so few places where dog walkers can exercise their animals off leash within city limits. This problem is especially acute for those of us with larger breeds. We intend to show Council and administration that we need much more space than what is currently allotted.
With more than 100,000 visits per year, we are the largest user group of Kilcona Park. We are also the only group that uses Kilcona all year round. The space we request is not high demand space – it is largely grassland, trees and mud trails, of which we are the only group that uses it in any significant number. For some, dog walking is their primary physical activity, much like softball and soccer are for the other primary users of the park.
The activities of dog walking, softball, and soccer can co-exist quite nicely. What we ask for is better signage that makes the areas surrounding the athletic fields a mandatory on-leash area at all times when games are on, and improved signage delineating the toboggan and model airplane areas. We’d also like more garbage bins for animal waste. Many trails become exceptionally muddy after a rain and during the spring melt.
We are not here just looking to be given things. We want to be part of the solution. Kilcona Park Dog Club currently organizes a Park Clean Up Day each spring where we go through the whole park, cleaning up not just animal waste but also all other garbage. We have also fundraised for benches and bag receptacles. We intend to continue to do so, and wish to work with the City to identify priorities.
An estimated 400 dogs walk an average of 5 times per week each at the Kilcona Dog Park (these are conservative estimates). That is 104,000 individual visits per year and growing! We believe that makes dog walkers the largest user group of the park.
Should you wish to contact us, visit the Kilcona Dog Park Facebook page and leave a comment. Please thank Councillor Browaty for all his support. Visit his website at www.jeffbrowaty.com.
KPDC Restructures Itself
Rally organizers were encouraged by Councillor Browaty’s support. Three weeks later Tony Zerucha and Maureen and John Heide attended an East Kildonan-Transcona Community Committee to speak in support of expanding the off-leash area. The delegation presented the dog owners’ petition.
Councillors Jeff Browaty, Thomas Steen (East Kildonan) and Russ Wyatt (Transcona) responded with a recommendation that “the Winnipeg Public Service enter into Memorandum of Understanding expeditiously with the Kilcona Dog Park Club and the first matter of business be the expanding of the formal off-leash boundaries.” Reference: http://winnipeg.ca/clkdmis/ViewDoc.asp?DocId=9624&SectionId=&InitUrl=
Maureen conveyed the news to Kilcona dog park users on Facebook.
“Update: The committee just returned from the EK-T community meeting with councillors Browaty, Wyatt & Thomas, and the motion to expand the off-leash area was approved. We now have to work with the city to establish a Memorandum of Understanding between us & the city.”
Then the organizers approached City administrators. Their early optimism turned to dismay when the City clarified its demands. Administrators would not negotiate with them until the volunteers restructured the club, transforming it from an informal, loosely defined group of dog park users into a registered, incorporated not-for-profit organization. This was a tall order but rally organizers accepted the challenge.
Maureen used Facebook to communicate the City’s demands to dog park users.
“In order to move forward with our expansion, it is vital & necessary that we incorporate a formal dog park association. We will be doing a membership drive for the time being at the park and are investigating setting up a blog site with info & membership forms. A membership would be a nominal fee of $10.00/year which would go towards park improvements. You would then be a member in good standing which would enable you to vote & voice your concerns to the Executive. Once we have a decent membership base, we will call an election and your Executive/Board of Directors will be voted on. Remember, this is a must if we are to move forward with this.”
In less than a month volunteers developed by-laws and organized the club’s first Annual General Meeting. On November 17, 2009 KPDC members approved new by-laws and elected their first Board of Directors:
Co-chairs – Maureen Heide and Tony Zerucha
Treasurer – John Heide
Secretary – Linda Logan
Members-at-Large – Susan Argue, Gerald Cabotte, Arlene Casson, Wayne L’Esperance, Linda Loewen, and Donna Moore.
Membership fees were set at $5.
The Board registered the new, restructured organization as Kilcona Park Dog Club Winnipeg.
The club’s first priority was to advocate for improvements to the dog park. Maureen Heide remembers the new Board decided to meet every three months.
“During these meetings we brainstormed, talked about issues in the park, and emailed the City about dog owners’ concerns – for example the terrible condition of the trails. We also wanted to fundraise for park improvements such as picnic tables, park benches, and flower boxes. We had the park sign moved down to its present site and gravelled in.
We also started a blog which we used to provide updates to the membership. When we met with the City we would inform members about what happened. We also had some fun stuff on the blog.”
Over the next six months KPDC’s Board and City administrators met three times to negotiate an expansion to the off-leash area. At times the negotiations were acrimonious and tempers flared. The Board accused City administrators of deliberately sabotaging the process. Maureen Heide expressed the Board’s frustration in an email to Councillor Browaty.
“I don’t know what the ulterior motive on the City’s part is. Some surmise that making us jump through these hoops is a stalling tactic. Others think the City is trying to make it as difficult and negative as possible for us, to discourage us from using the park at all. Others guess that the City is just hoping that we will go away quietly and disappear. Rest assured that won’t be happening. We will fight for our park…”
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), drawn up by the City’s real estate department, was a particular source of frustration for the new Board. The nine-page contract was a legal document, the language arcane.
The City would not negotiate an expansion of the off-leash area unless KPDC’s Board signed the MOU but the Directors knew that if they did, the contract would impose legal obligations that the club could not fulfill. Among other things, KPDC would be obliged to provide a year round labour force “to assist with collecting litter and waste and delivering it to the maintenance compound, assist with control of noxious weeds, woodchip trails every second year or as required, and purchase garbage bags for off-leash litter baskets.”
The Board considered these demands unreasonable and unfair since the City did not require them of other park user groups. However the biggest hurdle for a financially-strapped fledgling organization was the City’s demand that KPDC purchase a $2 million commercial general liability insurance policy, indemnifying the City.
Negotiating an Expansion of the Off-Leash Area
During the winter of 2009-2010, Kilcona’s dog owners lost access to eight kilometers of trails on the East Hill and in the forest along Springfield Road. In December, on the recommendation of the Park Superintendent, the City’s Standing Policy Committee on Protection and Community Services officially designated the East Hill trails the “Chris McCubbins Cross Country Trails”, reserving them for the University of Manitoba Bison Team’s annual Chris McCubbins Provincial Cross Country Championship.
Park staff erected a controversial chain link fence between the dog park and the McCubbins Trails.
Photo credit: Maureen Heide
KPDC’s Co-chair, Maureen Heide, complained to Councillor Browaty.
“The fence is another touchy issue. I personally take exception to the fact that it has been stated that the Co-Chair of the club was “consulted” regarding the fence. None of our members, myself included, was ever “consulted” about a fence dividing the park. [The park superintendent] sent me an email in the early winter giving me a “heads up” that they would be fencing in the maintenance yard. That’s it.
Fencing in a maintenance yard is one thing; however building a fence/gate across the road cutting off access to the entire east side/forest trails is another completely different matter. Everyone believes that this was done is bad faith on the City’s part.” [A hand-lettered] sign is back up on the fence stating ‘no dogs allowed past this point, City Employees only’.”
The City also tightened the rules on the Forest Trail along Springfield Road.
Forest Trail – 2010
Photo Credit: Greg Conn
Reporting to KPDC’s Board of Directors on an April, 2010 meeting with City officials, Maureen Heide wrote,
“In regards to the forest paths and east hill, we requested year-round off-leash access…and that was met by several roadblocks. The first and most obvious is potential conflict between users. The City contends the dedicated Frisbee golf course is established in the forest area.
The forest trails are slated for future development with the $20.4M of taxpayer’s money they’re pumping into the Active Transportation Corridor. With the expansion of the Chief Peguis Trail, they are linking a cycling path from Springfield through the forest to Harbourview.
The City rejected the Co-chair’s suggestion to allow off-leash access to the trails on a time-shared or seasonal basis.
[Maureen] said, “No one jogs the East Hill in the dead of winter and the frisbee golf course is certainly not utilized during the winter. However Parks and Open Space administration maintains that with the expansion of the Active Transportation Corridor cyclists will be using the forest trails in winter. They said, “If we build it they will come.”
At the same time designated trails in the off-leash area were systematically being destroyed – the result of inappropriate maintenance practices. In an email to Councillor Browaty, Maureen Heide raised the alarm.
Maureen Heide inspects front end loader damage to trail
Photo credit: Donna Henry
“In the six years I have been attending the park in the winter, the former staff kept the park meticulous…up until this year…We did not have much snow this winter, yet on several occasions, our members saw the plows out day after day plowing the trails right down to the sod. This severely damages the trails; where there was once grass there is now bare mud.”
Sod stripped from trails by park front end loader
Photo credit – Linda Logan
Co-chair Heide also complained that park employees were harassing dog owners.
“Several bucketsful of huge snow chunks were dumped in the area where the dog walkers congregate, which makes it very difficult to meet and play with the dogs.”
In her response to Maureen’s original complaint, the park superintendent apologized for the inconvenience. But Maureen protested to Councillor Browaty that this was more than an inconvenience.
“In the past [park employees] have always dumped the accumulated snow in the middle and on top of the south hill, where it does not hamper anyone’s enjoyment of the park. My question is why, suddenly, the previous location was inadequate enough that they had to dump it right in the middle of the dog walkers meeting spot? Quite honestly, the perspective is that this is a very vindictive action.”
Off-Leash Area Expansion and Other Improvements – 2010
The payoff came in April 2010 and KPDC’s new Co-chair could not contain her enthusiasm. In an email to the Board, Heide wrote,
“I am pleased to announce that we have received an expansion to our off-leash area. We are now allowed unrestricted access to the south hill all the way down to the water line, so our area has doubled in size!!!! “
KPDC Co-chair Maureen Heide
In July Winnipeg Animal Services installed a sign at the entrance to the dog park, and Parks and Open Space installed a map confirming the new off-leash area boundaries.
In the summer KPDC volunteers spread wood chips to repair a section of the north trail that had been badly damaged by the previous winter’s over-ploughing.
Gerald Carbotte, Maureen and John Heide, Emmanuel Machado chip damaged trail
Photo credit: Greg Conn
In the fall KPDC volunteers plant two hundred shrubs in the off-leash area. The City, responding to repeated requests from the dog owner lobby, paved the access road from Lagimodiere to the parking lot. Park staff installed several benches along the off-leash trails.
New bench overlooks dog play area, cityscape and prairie sunsets
Photo credit: Colleen Blouin
North Kildonan’s Councillor continued to express his support for the dog park. In the run-up to the 2010 municipal election, Jeff Browaty pledged, “If re-elected I will work to find ways to make [Kilcona] dog park the city’s premiere off-leash facility.”
November 2010 Annual General Meeting
At the club’s second AGM, the following members were elected to the Board:
Co-Chair: Maureen Heide
Co-Chair: Donna Henry
Treasurer: John Heide
Secretary: Linda Logan
Members-at-Large: Susan Argue, Gerald Carbotte, Jeff Henry, Ed Skomro, Joanne Storie
Organizational Change and Advocacy – 2011
What’s in a Name?
In 2011 the Board made several changes to improve its effectiveness, increase its accountability to the membership, establish greater credibility and strengthen the organization.
The name of the club was officially changed from Kilcona Dog Park Winnipeg to Kilcona Park Dog Club Inc. and the club was incorporated.
The Board took the first step in defining Directors’ roles and responsibilities. Members-at-large took responsibility for specific portfolios – Director of Membership (JoAnn Storie), Co-Directors of Events (Susan Argue and Gerald Carbotte), and Director of Marketing (Jeff Henry).
The Board developed more formal accounting procedures and began conducting annual year-end financial audits.
The Board also aligned its fundraising goals with the club’s purposes, directing money the club raised to advocacy, stewardship and responsible pet ownership initiatives.
Lobbying for Trail Rehabilitation
During the 2011spring melt, the off-leash trails became impassible. Over-ploughing with a front end loader, excessive mowing and heavy maintenance vehicles had stripped Kilcona Dog Park’s celebrated grassy trails of most of their vegetation and created deep tire ruts where water accumulated.
North Pond Trail damage
Photo credit: Donna Henry
Fast-flowing melt water streams cascading from the top of the capped landfill down to the retention ponds cut deep crevices across the landscape, eroding and washing out entire sections of the trails. The off-leash area was reduced to a sea of mud whenever it rained – and it rained frequently in the summer of 2011.
North Pond Trail/service road intersection
Photo credit: Donna Henry
The Board’s first priority was to secure a commitment from the City to repair the trails and protect them from further erosion.
The Board met with City administrators and the EKT Community Committee to demand that the City fund trail repairs, use appropriate low-impact trail maintenance equipment, and develop a master plan for Kilcona Dog Park to address outstanding management issues.
Sign on Kilcona Dog Park Bulletin Board
Photo credit: Maureen Heide
In April the City responded by hiring a consultant to evaluate off-leash trails. KPDC hosted a forum to allow dog owners to discuss their concerns with landscape architect, Dean Spearman. Over the summer the consultant and KPDC Directors hiked the trails together, identifying problem areas.
Evaluating trail damage
Photo credit: Donna Henry
Spearman also met with park employees to discuss trail maintenance and garbage collection practices. His report confirmed what Kilcona dog owners knew.
“Lack of drainage, combined with increased usage and prolonged wet periods over a number of years, compounded with unfortunate maintenance practices, have resulted in unfavourable path conditions such as standing water, ruts and muddy sections.”
The report recommended lower impact vehicles and less aggressive maintenance procedures. It also recommended that the City reconstruct trails, improve drainage to prevent further erosion, and upgrade park furnishings and signage. The consultant’s estimate for trail remediation – $700,000.
The City advised KPDC there would be no money in the budget for trail rehabilitation for the foreseeable future.
Growing the Club
Disappointed by the City’s decision, the Board was determined to continue the fight for decent off-leash trails. It would need to increase club membership to lobby more effectively. To increase membership, it first had to increase the club’s visibility, creating awareness among dog owners of the organization, its goals, objectives and the benefits of membership.
To that end, the Director of Marketing established a Marketing Committee and created the club’s first five-year marketing plan. Director Jeff Henry and Committee members Kevin Gordon, Vince Pahkala, and Lee-Ann Zacharias began implementing the plan. They redesigned and re-launched the blog, and created a presence for the club on Facebook.
Corporate Sponsorship Program
KPDC’s value-added Corporate Sponsorship Program was designed to be a key component of the club’s marketing plan – a win-win for members and sponsors.
Members would receive discounts from sponsors. In return for their generosity, sponsors would receive public acknowledgement of their sponsorship, advertising space on KPDC’s website, greater visibility in the marketplace through promotion and recognition on club banners and other media, and opportunities to promote their businesses at club events. The program also provided sponsors an opportunity to improve their bottom line by selling to a specific market segment – a growing number of KPDC members who would walk through their doors in search of discounts and other benefits.
The sponsorship program was also designed to raise Kilcona Park Dog Club’s profile, develop a greater community presence, and connect with dog owners and engage them at a deeper level. The value-added member program was designed to increase membership.
Official Status as Kilcona Park’s Steward
In April 2011 the City approved Kilcona Park Dog Club’s application to become the official park steward and Parks staff installed a new Adopt-A-Park Program sign near the dog play area acknowledging the club’s status. Dozens of volunteers participated in the spring clean-up; others chipped trails, planted more shrubs and raised money for park improvements.
Michelle Carbotte – 2011 Spring Clean-up
Photo credit: Donna Henry
November 2011 Annual General Meeting
At the club’s third AGM, the by-laws were amended to create a more workable governance structure. Co-chair positions were replaced with a president and vice-president. Members-at-Large positions were replaced by Directors with specific portfolios. The following members were elected to the Board.
President: Donna Henry
Vice President: Susan Argue
Treasurer: Vacant (Acting Treasurer Jeff Henry fulfilled the duties in 2012)
Secretary: Vacant (Kathleen Kirkman accepted the position in August 2012)
Director of Marketing/Communication: Jeff Henry
Director of Events: Gerald Carbotte
Director of Membership: Lee-Ann Zacharias
New Directions – 2012
The Board ramped up its efforts to increase membership, making it the number one priority for the year. Marketing continued to focus on increasing the club’s visibility, expanding awareness of its goals, activities and membership benefits, and launching the Corporate Sponsorship Program.
Increasing Awareness in the Community
It was a busy year for the Marketing team. The committee began by designing a distinctive new “Happy Dog” logo that soon appeared on volunteer tee shirts and banners at club events, on the club’s website and Facebook page, membership cards, business cards and posters. The logo served to develop brand recognition and promote a polished, more professional image of Kilcona Park Dog Club.
The Marketing Committee also launched an attractive new website, integrating it with the club’s Facebook page and a new internal email system that made it easier for members and the Board to communicate information and share concerns.
Launching the Corporate Sponsorship Program
The Marketing group launched the club’s Corporate Sponsorship Program in April, with an announcement that McPhillips Animal Hospital, JD Hoggs, and Corporate Source Printing had signed on as Gold Sponsors. The founding sponsors would provide special discounts to KPDC members. The number of corporate sponsors grew to ten by year end.
Growing Club Membership
The Marketing Committee’s effort to attract members paid off. Thanks to the new sponsorship program club membership soared from 35 to 244 over the year. Not only did members appreciate the benefits of the new value-added program, it had suddenly become a whole lot easier to join the club. No longer did people have to wait for the Spring BBQ or an Annual General Meeting to buy a KPDC membership; they could purchase one at their own convenience at Pet Valu’s Reenders and Rivergrove stores.
Photo credit: Pet Valu
Hosting New Events
Serving up giant, sizzling custom-smoked sausages and dogs from Gold Sponsor JD Hoggs, KPDC hosted the 2012 Annual Spring BBQ. Then, with the goal of increasing awareness of the club, the Board also accepted an invitation to co-host a high profile national event with Rogers Communications. In August, hundreds of Winnipeg dog owners – along with the cutest, the cuddliest, the smartest, most talented, most dignified and most adorable dogs – turned out for the Fido Casting Call to raise $200,000 for Guide Dogs of Canada.
Fido Casting Call Photo Shoot
Photo credits: Donna Henry
In September the club held its first fall BBQ. KPDC’s new sponsors set up booths and demonstrations, adding new buzz to the club’s parties in the park.
Gambling on a New Fundraiser
Looking for new ways to raise money for park improvements, KPDC turned to gaming. The club’s first raffle offered prizes aimed at dog owners – gift certificates from three corporate sponsors: McPhillips Animal Hospital, Pet Valu and Sprockett’s Doggy Day Camp. While the Dog Lovers’ Raffle was not as profitable as they wished, organizers learned valuable lessons that would make the 2013 raffle the most successful fundraiser ever.
KPDC’s first raffle winners – Zoria and James Low with Maisy and Neeka
Photo credit: Susan Argue
Successful fundraising enabled the club to spend money on park improvements. Its first purchase was a cigarette butt receptacle to reduce the risk of accidental dog poisoning and control litter in the parking lot and play area.
KPDC donates cigarette butt receptacle to Kilcona Park
Photo credit: Jeff Henry
Promoting Responsible Pet Ownership
Seasoned dog park users had always played an important role in personally orienting and mentoring first-time visitors to Winnipeg’s off-leash areas. Most first-timers had no idea how to prepare or what to expect, and it was often a confusing, sometime frightening experience for dog and dog owner alike.
Kilcona Park Dog Club, Maple Grove Park Dog Owners Association, and Little Mountain Park Pet Owners Association agreed it was time Winnipeg had its own dog park safety and etiquette resource.
The clubs collaborated to fund and publish a dog park orientation brochure. A working committee – Maple Grove’s Frank Machovec and Rosalyn Jones-Smith , Little Mountain’s Lloyd Johnson and Gail Hryshko and Kilcona’s Donna Henry and Susan Argue – drafted the content and designed the brochure. Pet-iquette was approved by Winnipeg Animal Services and distributed to novice dog park visitors and new dog owners through veterinarians, shelters and rescue organizations, and online.
Photo credit: Rosemary Beraro
Meanwhile, at Kilcona, a minority of dog owners continued to ignore one of the most basic rule of dog park etiquette – pick up after your dog. A handful of volunteers patrolled the park almost every week cleaning up after scofflaws but even they couldn’t keep up. There were concerns that the City had grounds to close the dog park.
For the first time, the club was forced to hold an emergency winter clean-up. In minus thirty degree temperatures, volunteers turned out to chip and shovel. Hundreds of bags of dog waste were hauled out of the off-leash area in one afternoon.
Clean-up crew Toni and Lee-Ann Zacharias, Tanya Hirsch and Jeff Henry
Photo credit: Donna Henry
KPDC launched the “Number Two Clue” program to empower responsible dog owners to “blow the whistle” on those who were distracted or simply negligent,
The Marketing Committee’s Robyn Maharaj came up with the idea during a visit to the park.
“I observed two dogs…and no one cleaning up after them. I don’t think it was intentional – everyone was chatting, playing with other dogs, etc. It got me thinking that perhaps there is a way to alert dog owners when this happens. Here’s the plan…
There is nothing worse than walking through dog droppings or worse having your dog run through droppings because someone didn’t clean up after their dog.
Be part of the solution!
If you are in the off-the-leash area, bring a whistle. If you notice that no one is preparing to clean up after a dog, give two short blasts and point out the dog. The whistle and a quick “Hey everyone, whose dog is this?” should get the owner’s attention.
The two (number 2 – get it?) short whistles is not meant to shame anyone. It’s simply dog owners looking out for fellow dog owners. Anyone can get distracted by a conversation, a cell phone, their kids, or observing other dogs. We can all help ensure that messes are cleaned up quickly.”
The club also introduced the “Extra Bag” promotion, asking dog owners to pick up one extra bag on their daily walks.
And increasingly, Kilcona dog owners themselves were using social media to encourage responsible behavior.
In 2012, in the face of mounting concern over threats to the city’s off-leash areas, Kilcona, Maple Grove and Little Mountain dog clubs agreed that people using Winnipeg dog parks needed to organize to protect their off-leash space and advocate on matters of common interest.
In June Transcona’s only off-leash area had been closed, paved and repurposed as part of the six kilometer Transcona Trail, a link in city’s Active Transportation Network.
Signs at Transcona and Little Mountain dog parks announce closure and reduction
Photo credit: Donna Henry Photo credit: Jordan Thompson/Canstar Media
At the same time, the City rezoned Little Mountain Park, reducing the off-leash area and forcing off-leash dogs into an unfenced corner of the park, adjacent to the intersection of two heavily-trafficked roads. At the same time, CentrePort Canada unveiled plans to run a freeway through the remnant dog park.
Other dog park closures were imminent. City Council voted to fast-track a $60 million extension to the William R. Clement Parkway. The extension would run through Charleswood Dog Park.
Brenda Leipsic Dog Park was also at risk, threatened by a proposed rapid transportation route running through Parker Wetlands. The Winnipeg Humane Society, some environmentalists, and residents from the neighbourhood joined dog owners in opposing the route.
Photo credit: Parker Wetlands Conservation
The city’s dog clubs were alarmed by the City’s refusal to consult with the public regarding guidelines that were being developed for Winnipeg’s off-leash areas. The clubs cited a lack of transparency regarding the closure of Winnipeg dog parks, and the City’s failure to create new neighbourhood dog parks when existing ones were closed.
In November dog park activists met to discuss the creation of the Winnipeg Network of Dog Owner Groups (WINDOG), a city-wide coalition designed to give dog park clubs a stronger voice and a greater ability to advocate on behalf of dog park users.
November 2012 Annual General Meeting
At the club’s fourth AGM, the following members were elected to the Board.
President: Donna Henry
Vice President: Susan Argue
Treasurer: Craig Handkamer
Recording Secretary: Kathleen Kirkman
Director of Marketing and Communication: Jeff Henry
Director of Membership: Tanya Hirsch
Director of Events: Wayne L’Esperance
Members voted to increase the membership fee to $10.00 per person.
Jeff Henry, Donna Henry, Wayne L’Esperance, Craig Handkamer, Tanya Hirsch
Kathleen Kirkman, Susan Argue
Photo credit: Lee-Ann Zacharias
Kilcona Park Dog Club’s Tenth Anniversary – 2013
The year was one of great achievements. Membership nearly doubled – climbing to 424 – and the Corporate Sponsorship Program expanded from ten to nineteen sponsors.
In financial terms it was a watershed year; the club’s net income increased tenfold over 2012. And while the club still relied on the sale of membership, food and beverage sales at barbecues, and 50/50 draws; Corporate Sponsorship Program fees and the “People on the Go” raffle were major revenue generators. In September the City approved a $20,000 Land Dedication Reserve Fund grant to KPDC to purchase park benches and picnic tables.
For the second year in a row the club hosted three large fundraising events at Kilcona: the annual spring BBQ; September’s “Dog Fest”, celebrating the club’s tenth anniversary, and the KPDC-IAMS National Dog Day Party in the Park. IAMS reported that the National Dog Day Party was the most successful event in the company’s nineteen city cross-Canada tour to promote its new line of dog food.
KPDC/IAMS National Dog Day in the Park
Photo credits: Donna Henry
Responding to a WINDOG survey, KPDC members identified trail remediation and waste pick-up as priorities. In response, park clean-ups were increased to twice a year; with hundreds of volunteers participating in the first fall clean-up.
Kilcona Park/Harbourview Recreation Complex Strategic Renewal & Action Plan
The club’s successes were tempered by the City’s threat to reduce the size of off-leash area by as much as fifty percent.
The announcement came in March, when City administrators and a team of consultants presented Kilcona Park users with three options for future park development. Each option called for a reduction to the dog park and expansion of the retention ponds to create a course for dragon boat and kayak races.
Angry dog owners jokingly coined the proposed off-leash area “Dog Island” but the proposal was no joke.
Proposed Kilcona Park Master Plan – Option C – Dog Island
Kilcona’s dog community fought back. Dog owners howled in protest, sending a flood of emails to the Mayor, their City Councillors, City officials and the consultants. Extensive media coverage of the issue favoured Kilcona dog owners.
KPDC sign warns dog park users of threat to off-leash area
Photo credit: Leslie McLaren/CBC
In April 2013 KPDC’s Board of Directors called a General Membership Meeting. Club members voted unanimously to approve the Board’s alternate proposal that would expand rather than shrink the dog park.
With a municipal election looming, the club launched the “I Own a Dog and I Vote” bumper sticker campaign to remind the Mayor and Council of dog owners’ electoral clout.
Photo credit: Leslie McLaren/CBC
In April, KPDC’s President held meetings with Councillors Jeff Browaty and Russ Wyatt.
Directors also met with Councillor Browaty, City administrators and the consultants to present the club’s proposed plan for expansion. Councillor Browaty reminded planners that dog owners were the largest stakeholder group and the only group that uses the park year round. He said Kilcona Park Dog Club had been under-represented in the consultation process.
The Councillor questioned where the funding would come from for a major redevelopment of the Kilcona. He told the planners to go back to the drawing board, identify costs and rework the plan. The planning process was on hold for now.
In September Councillor Browaty attended KPDC’s tenth anniversary celebration. Speaking to the controversial development plan, Browaty said,
“When there were proposals put out by consultants that didn’t really know the park to reduce the size of the park, it was the people here that stepped up and said ‘Hey, this is not acceptable’.
Thank you for making your voices heard and making everyone understand this park is well used, very well loved and that off-leash area dog park users are very important.”
In November the City unveiled a revised park plan. While the off-leash area space was not what the club had asked for, the collective action of Kilcona dog owners had been effective. There would be no reduction in size of the dog park.
Park plan approved by the EKT Community Committee