By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
Improving accessibility to the local dog park will be discussed during Coaldale’s budget deliberation for 2024.
During their regular June 26 meeting, Coaldale town council discussed options to improve accessibility to the local dog park. The Off Leash Dog Park is one of Coaldale’s most well-used parks. Recent development in neighbouring amenities, such as the rehabilitation of the Owls Nest Campground and the new Mountain Bike Park, have helped increase usage at the dog park.
However, in order to access the dog park, a person would need to park on 20th Avenue and either go down one of two large staircases located on the north side of the park or use the pathway system to access an east-end gate and walk down a lower grad hill into the park. All three current access points are not ideal for those with disabilities or those with declining health.
In a 2021 report, the Town of Coaldale Accessibility Working Group proposed two options to improve the space while Town administration has proposed a third option.
The first option would see the access gate at the northwest entrance along 20th Ave. revamped with more universal design features such as barrier-free signage and road markings, concrete curb-cut and drop curb, a modified gate and ramp with railing. This would cost between $70,000-150,000, depending on the material chose for the modification.
The second option would have the east side gate modified with features such as a concrete access pad to the gate, a modified gate, and ramp with railings. This would cost approximately $30,000-68,000, with the total cost dependent on materials used.
According to the report, these two options would increase accessibility to the dog park, albeit at different entrances. However, the second option is not close to parking, and has a high-pressure gas line in the area that would need to be built over. As well, the site is a dry storm pond, so flooding may occur.
The final option, provided by administration, is to build a new dog park on the north side beside the museum, with features such as a walkway from the alley into the park, a fenced area, new sod, irrigation and new trees. This would cost approximately $60,000.
While this dog park will be more accessible to north side residents and fits in with planned future pathways for the area, administration noted the Town may have other plans for what to do with this space. Additionally, having two dog parks is less cost effective than having one, and the existing one is already popular.
However council proceeds, funds have not yet been allocated to this project in the 2023 Capital Budget. Coaldale’s Parks and Recreation Manager, Chad Glasser, noted grant funding may be able to cover the expense, and pointed to the a federal Enabling Accessibility Fund for Small Projects, as a potential funding source once applications are opened again in the fall.
“There would be potential funds come 2024, if we were awarded that grant,” said Glasser.
“We strive to be a barrier-free community, and this dog park is not going anywhere,” said mayor Jack Van Rijn. “I think we need to be able to make it accessible to anyone who wants to use it. But again, with the large price tag that comes with this, we need to obviously apply for grants and see where we can find funding for that. Probably a future budget discussion.”
Coun. Jordan Sailer asked when the project would potentially start. Russ Tanner, director of recreation and community services noted, “depending on timing in September, what we certainly could do is apply for that grant, (and) at the same time come to council through the budget process,” said Tanner, noting they could start once they receive funding. “From a timing perspective, we wouldn’t have that money in time to be able to do certain materials. So, it will depend on what materials and what winter looks like, certainly concrete would be an issue. So, the project in all likelihood, we’re looking at next spring.”
Sailer noted with all the development going on in the north side of town, he would be interested in doing options 2 and 3 to take advantage of the full grant. Van Rijn thought the land next to the museum was too small for a dog park, but added, “maybe there’s other options on the north side.”
Van Rijn agreed that this would be a budget discussion, and they couldn’t do the dog park this year. However, depending on the motion, they would need to do social media outreach on how they’re looking into accessibility and a ramp for the dog park, as council has been getting inquiries on that.
Council unanimously passed a motion to direct administration to apply for the federal government’s Enabling Accessibility grant to remedy the existing park and implement accessible infrastructure, and directed administration to explore additional options on the north side of Coaldale.
The matter will be brought back to council during the 2024 budget deliberations this fall.