The only person who’s presumably more thrilled than Sylvan Lake’s 1,600 licensed canines about the town’s first off-leash dog park is Jim deBoon.
“I’m the most excited I’ve been in 30 years,” said deBoon, Sylvan Lake’s animal control officer.
For the last three decades, deBoon has been having to stop or fine dog owners with off-leash pooches in the community.
“If the dog was perfectly well behaved and I’d say, ‘Please put the dog on a leash,’ people would look at me as if I was some kind of bad cop or Nazi,” said deBoon, who recognized there was no local place where the animals were legally allowed to run free.
That’s going to change in August, when the Town of Sylvan Lake, with a human population of 11,115, is expected to open its first off-leash park in the southwestern corner of the community. Located east of 60th Street and near the new cemetery, the park will be on about 4.5 acres of town-owned land.
Ron Lebsack, Sylvan Lake’s director of leisure and protective services, believes there’s been a lot of demand for a dog park over the years, but finding a location was problematic.
A former proposed site was near railway tracks, and the town’s mayor Susan Samson said there were safety concerns.
“We would have had to build a long fence that would have been expensive.”
The new property was approved by town council last month, and Samson is pleased, saying;
“There are a lot of dogs in town, so dog areas are important.”
The site is connected to trails and there’s space for parking, said Lebsack, who noted landscaping designs should be ready by the end of February.
“We’re quite excited about this. We heard a lot from the public that it was a high priority.”
DeBoon said many dogs need more exercise than their owners can give them while their pets are on a leash.
“You couldn’t run fast enough.” As a result, some Sylvan Lake dog owners had been driving to Red Deer to use the city’s two off-leash parks.
“If dogs are properly exercised, they’re less likely to be aggressive or to bark, so by and large, I think off-leash dog parks are awesome,” added deBoon.