Dog park leash rule relaxed as City signals cautious move to relaunch services amid financial challenges

As of sunrise Saturday, dogs in the 38 open dog parks in Edmonton will no longer have to be on leash. 

The announcement came from Interim City Manager Adam Laughlin at a news conference at City Hall where he and Mayor Don Iveson cautiously shared the early shape of the City’s re-launch of programs and services. 

“The City has heard loud and clear that Edmontonians miss their usual practice in the dog parks,” said Laughlin, himself a dog owner. 

“We are so pleased that we can let most off-leash parks serve their intended purpose.” 

Lauderdale Dog Park (above) and three other fenced dog parks remain closed for the time being

The City’s four fenced dog parks remain temporarily closed. 

“We may need to open the dog parks in stages, starting with Lauderdale, because it’s the largest, followed by Manning Village, Paisley and Alex Decoteau,” said Laughlin. 

Before reopening the fenced dog parks, the City will look at arrangements to protect people from the risk of frequently touched surfaces, and study other safety moves. 

“While it is still too early to confirm exact dates when the fenced dog parks will reopen, I can confirm it’ll continue to be an evaluation for the City of Edmonton.” 

Balanced approach

Throughout his remarks, Laughlin balanced the prospect of easing COVID-19 restrictions with the need for Edmontonians to continue to follow public health guidelines. Laughlin also foregrounded the prudence with which the City will relaunch. 

“Much of our progress will depend on public health requirements, public safety, operational resources, the budget that we have available and the compliance levels of Edmontonians,” he said.

Laughlin stressed the path ahead may not be a straight line. 

“We may make several moves toward relaunch and then recognize that we need to dial it back,” he said. “As the situation evolves, we will make the necessary adjustments.” 

Victoria Golf Course, May 1, 2020. The plan to re-open municipal golf courses is being worked out by City of Edmonton leaders.

Golf courses, revenue hit, financial winds

Laughlin said his team will update City Council next week on a course opening plan for Victoria, Rundle and Riverside golf courses.

“The Province has been clear that while courses can open, requirements to maintain physical distancing are still the same, and clubhouses and pro shops will remain closed during this phase.” 

Laughlin addressed municipal golf course golfers. 

“We will make our plans known to you as soon as we can, and it will be in the context of other decisions that have to be made,” he said. 

Laughlin later expanded on that statement in answering a news reporter’s question. He said the decision to reopen golf courses is not just about how to safely reopen and operate golf courses, even if they are revenue-generating enterprises.

“We’ve taken a significant hit from a revenue perspective at the City of Edmonton, so we need to look at opening golf courses in the contexts of public health, public safety and the financial constraints that we have,” said Laughlin. 

Laughlin indicated that that mix of considerations will also inform decisions to relaunch other activities. 

Privately managed golf courses will make their own reopening decisions. 

Interim City Manager Adam Laughlin, City Hall, Edmonton, May 1, 2020

Other outdoor activities info coming soon 

Laughlin said the City will dig in with provincial officials to determine which other outdoor activities may be included in the first stage of the provincial relaunch, scheduled for May 14. 

“We want to be clear about the new ways Edmontonians can enjoy the City’s outdoor amenities.” 

Mayor Don Iveson, City Hall, May 1, 2020

Not a vaccine

Mayor Don Iveson echoed the message that Edmontonians need to practise patience along with physical distancing. 

“No doubt everyone is very excited about what is opening, but I want to stress, too, that everyone is going to have to be patient as we continue to monitor what’s working and what’s not, and we expect there to be starts and stops,” said Iveson. 

“Short of a vaccine, of course, there really is no magic button we can just hit to turn everything back on immediately.” 

Thank you

Laughlin said thanks.

“I want to thank Edmontonians,” he said. “You’ve all made real sacrifices and have done your part to stay safe during these unprecedented times and that has helped to get us to this point.” 

And that there is a sense of progress in the air.

“In short, my message to Edmontonians is that there will be progress, but it will be incremental. “But, thankfully, there is some progress.” 

Editor’s note: The photo at the top of the post shows Edmonton City Hall from Sir Winston Churchill Square on Friday, May 1, 2020.