“Every Absurdity Has a Champion to Defend It”
Recently Quebec’s over-zealous language police subjected their office to intense international ridicule. “Pastagate” began, as do many things these days, with a tweet. In February Massimo Lecas, co-owner of Buonanotte, an Italian restaurant in Montreal, received a letter from the office warning him that there were too many Italian words (such as “pasta”) on his menu. The language police told him to change them to the French equivalents or face a fine.
Journalists with a sense of the ridiculous quickly piled on. Other restaurant owners who had received similar letters came forward – this was not an isolated incident. A fish-and-chip-shop owner was instructed to call his main offering poisson frits et frites, a brasserie owner was asked to cover up the “redial” button on his telephone and the “on/off” switch on his microwave.
By March it was clear that Quebec had become the butt of too many political jokes. The President and Director-General of the language police was forced to step down.
When the masses start laughing at you, you’re through!
Absurdity does not respect provincial borders but here in Winnipeg, dog owners aren’t laughing.
The spring thaw is underway and Kilcona’s off-leash trails are once again a sea of boot-sucking mud. Stretches of the trails are completely under water. One minute you’re hopping over mud holes, the next minute ice cold slime is oozing over the top of your boots.
And when the romp in the park is over, there’s a filthy, wet dog; mud-splattered car seats and the time-consuming ritual of the dog bath.
And it’s not just about the mud – the off-leash trails are rutted, uneven, slippery and dangerous.
This year’s thaw has been slow and steady. The snow on the hill is starting to melt and we all know water runs downhill. Meltwater will continue to saturate Kilcona’s poorly-drained clay soil. With a record snowfall the situation isn’t likely to improve anytime soon.
Heavy traffic on muddy trails contributes to trail erosion. This can result in long term damage, making trails even worse during future spring thaws and after heavy rains.
Some parks protect their off-leash trails by closing them. Kilcona doesn’t – there’s nowhere else to go. The dry paved trails are out of bounds to off-leash dogs.
Photo credit: Colleen Blouin
Blind bureaucracy runs amok at Kilcona. In 2004 City’s consultant, Dean Spearman said, “While facilities exist for soccer and softball, these are exceptions, rather than the rule. The dog walkers in Kilcona form by far the greatest numbers of users in the park.”
In 2010, Spearman observed, “The number of park users in the off-leash area appears to have dramatically increased over the last eight years…Kilcona’s] dog walkers provide a valuable presence in the park, encouraging both use and discouraging vandalism…It’s important to recognize the contributions the users are making to this park.”
In 2010 the consultant studied trail damage in Kilcona’s off-leash area. He blamed erosion and degradation on unfortunate maintenance practices, poor drainage, increased usage, and prolonged wet periods.
He recommended the City repair and upgrade the trails by correcting the drainage, and leveling and resurfacing the trails with finely crushed rock. The estimated cost of the upgrade, which still has not been done is half a million dollars.
Although the off-leash trails are impassible, Kilcona’s paved paths – dry, level, and wheelchair-accessible –are designated exclusively on-leash, even though no one but dogs and dog walkers are using them. Absurdity reigns.
Without off-leash access to paved trails, Kilcona dog owners looking for a cleaner, dryer alternative, used to make the twenty minute drive to Little Mountain Park.
Little Mountain’s designated off-leash area – its expansive west field – was a favorite spot because sits on a limestone ridge where meltwater and rain percolate quickly through the soil instead of pooling.
Kilcona dog owners were overjoyed to find acres of grassy fields that dried out quickly. The dogs stayed clean – most only needed a quick foot wipe before they jumped into the family car!
Sadly Little Mountain’s no longer an option –the City’s recent rezoning has made the park one of the most dangerous places to walk dogs off-leash.
The off-leash area has been reduced to a sliver, forcing off-leash dogs into an unfenced corner of the park, along heavily-trafficked roads that feed into Little Mountain Sportsplex’s popular 213-acre athletic fields and licensed clubhouse.
Last August the City removed the blue and grey zones from the off-leash area and re-designated them as rental space for large tents…and bouncy toys!
The absurd on-leash designation applies year-round although not even Winnipeg’s hardiest have been tenting or bouncing at Little Mountain this winter.
Not content with rigidly restricting Little Mountain’s off-leash area to a postage stamp in a space that endangers dogs’ lives, the City gave the park’s little-used “No Mow Zone” fields (yellow zone) and its sheltered forest trails the same absurd year-round on-leash designation as Kilcona’s paved paths, even though no one but dogs and dog walkers use these spaces most of the year.
If Winnipeg politicians and bureaucrats choose, they have an opportunity to champion off-leash parks where citizens and their dogs can safely exercise, socialize and play. The City needs to set aside sufficient land; provide shade, accessibility for disabled people and a water source for both people and dogs.
The city’s dog owners are asking them to do just that. Over 100,000 dogs currently live in Winnipeg.
“I own a dog AND I vote!”