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Apr 2013

Kilcona Disabled Dog Owner Urges City to Level the Playing Field

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Kilcona’s Disabled Dog Owner Urges City to Level the Playing Field –

and the Trails!

This winter the City of Winnipeg designated three Kilcona parking stalls for for people with disabilities. Finding a parking spot close to the dog play area is now relatively easy – the real challenge for people with special mobility needs is getting into and using the off-leash area.

Photo credit: Colleen Blouin

For many disabled people, accessing Kilcona’s off-leash trails is simply not possible.

Physically unable to access park shelters or off-leash trails, and denied off-leash access to paved trails, Kilcona’s disabled dog owners gather around a picnic table a few feet from the edge of the parking lot. And at 30 below, it’s no picnic!


This week East Kildonan resident Kathleen Kirkman sent an open letter to Mayor Sam Katz, North Kildonan City Councillor Jeff Browaty and East Kildonan Councillor Thomas Steen urging the City to remove systemic barriers and provide reasonable accommodation for disabled dog owners like her who use Kilcona Park.



Here is Kathleen’s  letter:


To Mayor Katz and Councillors Browaty and Steen:

My name is Kathleen Kirkman and I have been an off-leash dog park user for the past five years. I have Multiple Sclerosis. I have always believed that active living is a key to mental health. This is more so for those who of us who have a disability.

Photo credit: Colleen Blouin

Getting out of the house and communing with nature, dogs, and other dog lovers is a welcome reprieve from the monotony of many disabled people’s lives.


Discovering Kilcona off-leash dog park was such a relief for me as I have two large dogs that require vigorous exercise. Being disabled, I find Kilcona’s off-leash park an ideal place to socialize with fellow dog owners, thereby lessening the isolation I might have felt had the park not existed.

 The beauty of this park makes the whole experience so therapeutic. I’m in awe at how nature has transformed a former garbage dump into a virtual oasis. I recently relocated to East Kildonan to be closer to Kilcona.


Photo credit: Colleen Blouin

My dogs have been with me prior to the commencement of my illness and make my circumstances more palatable than it would be without them.  In the course of my visits to Kilcona Park, I have met many dog owners who, like me, have a variety of physical impairments


The Problem

I try to be as independent as possible but Kilcona’s badly-eroded off-leash trails pose a formidable barrier for me and my disabled friends. It’s simply not possible for us to navigate the trails in the off-leash area.


In the spring, the paths are so muddy that my scooter inevitably gets caked in mud, and becomes immobilized.



When I attempt to avoid the muddy sections, I inevitably get trapped in the mud.



or worse still, fall off my scooter.



By the end of my outing, my dogs are covered in mud –



the scooter looks like a mud replica of a scooter, and my shoes or boots are caked in heavy prairie  gumbo.


 In the summer the trails are uneven and badly rutted, with long stretches of standing water, making passage a veritable challenge.


 Several times my scooter has fallen over and like a Kafkian cockroach, I try to right myself, and then the scooter. Fortunately, Kilcona’s community of dog walkers watches out for me and provides assistance when I need it.




I urge the City of Winnipeg to fulfill its obligation to make reasonable accommodations to allow disabled dog owners the opportunity to experience the park, to socialize and have a fulfilling off-leash recreational experience with our dogs on an equal basis with others.

Repair and upgrade the trails in Kilcona’s off-leash area and allow those of us with mobility challenges to walk our dogs off-leash on the snow-cleared, paved trails in the on-leash area in winter.


 As the population ages, there will be more individuals with mobility needs who require exercise for their dog companions as well as themselves.  The other side of the coin is that senior citizens will benefit from safe trails to maintain their health and the health of their canine family members.





Kathleen Kirkman

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Kilcona Park Dog Club Inc.
PO Box 43052
RPO Kildonan Place
Winnipeg, Manitoba R2C 5G5

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