Black Diamond homeowners opposing the construction of a gravel pathway in their neighbourhood prompted council to collect more public input before pushing ahead this summer.
During the questions and answer period at Black Diamond’s June 19 council meeting, three women expressed concerns about the Town’s plan to construct a 230-metre-long gravel pathway along a road allowance north of Government Road into the off-leash dog park.
Their concerns, as well as those expressed in a petition with more than two dozens signatures and letters submitted to the Town, address the potential for dogs running at large and defecating on private property, increased traffic and the pathway becoming a permanent access to the off-leash dog park.
“Clearly it’s a sensitive issue,” nearby resident Sandra Sokoloski told council. “Has council considered the impact of loss of vegetation, noise, dog waste and increased presence in the area?”
Sokoloski asked council to consider meeting with affected residents to create a solution that would satisfy everyone.
Resident Mary Stollery, who submitted a letter and spoke to council, asked why the pathway is a higher priority than that of the trails in the dog park, which she described as uneven.
Stollery requested further details about the project, including the environmental impact, and asked that it be delayed until the Town updates its 13-year-old Trails and Pathway Master Plan, in which the project is proposed.
She also asked council what prompted the project to go ahead 13 years later.
Sharlene Brown, chief administrative officer, said the pathway became a priority in the 2019 capital budget due to liability concerns with people using the road right-of-way as a walking trail. It’s currently a well-worn dirt pathway with steep sections.
Brown said the master plan was created in consultation with the public and engineers, but hasn’t been implemented in its entirety due to financial restrictions. The Town is completing pathways little by little, she said.
The master plan lists this particular area as a priority route, she said. The estimated cost is $67,000.
Brown said some trees will be removed to construct the two-metre wide pathway.
As for concerns about off-leash dogs in private areas, Brown said it’s a problem throughout town.
“We have two protective services officers that do patrols,” she said. “Enforcement and signage will go along with that.”
Mayor Ruth Goodwin and parks and recreation manager Les Quinton went door-to-door in the area on May 23, speaking with residents and dropping off notices about the proposed pathway. Goodwin said the responses were positive about the proposed extension of the Town’s primary pathway system.
Coun. Sharon Hart, who has used the existing dirt pathway, called it steep and dangerous with a need for improvement.
“I would like to see a gravel pathway there so it’s nicer to walk down,” she said. “It’s a beautiful area to just walk.”
Coun. Jackie Stickel agreed, saying it would be a great addition to the community.
“It’s a part of the pathway system,” she said. “It gives the citizens of the community a different route to walk, whether they have a dog or not. Yes it goes to the dog park, but you don’t have to have a dog to walk it.”
While council supports the project, councillors agreed to do more public consultation before moving ahead.
“At the very least, I think we should give the residents the opportunity to not just voice their concerns but have some input into the future of their back yard,” said Coun. Veronica Kloiber. “It could be a website survey, but I think the best way to do it is to get the parks and recreation committee out for coffee with some Valley Ridge residents.”
Coun. Daryl Lalonde agreed, suggesting council speak with residents once more before moving ahead.“Let’s see if there’s other ideas,” he said. “A lot of residents weren’t even there when the master plan came out.”
In response to concerns about the pathway becoming a second entrance to the dog park, Lalonde said he doesn’t expect out-of-towners to use it.
Council agreed to post an online survey to get public opinion on the project before bringing it back to its July 23 council meeting.
Stollery said she’s happy with council’s decision and would like to work with council to have more input on her surroundings.
“I would like to look at different options to see what the best thing is for our neighbourhood,” she said. “It would be nice perhaps to have some face-to-face to talk with them.”