Master Plan for Park Development
The Grant and the Master Plan
In July of 2011, the Maple Grove Park Dog Owners' Association received a significant Land Dedication Reserve grant from the City of Winnipeg to be used to develop a master plan for the off-leash park. The grant requires that the "final plans and specifications" be approved by the City. The grant is $6700 was intendedt to be used to pay for the services of a landscape architect.
We commissioned experienced landscape architect Dean Spearman to prepare our master plan. Last year, we solicited suggestions from the membership about park development, and Mr. Spearman visited the park, met with board members, reviewed suggestions from park users, and liaised with City Parks staff. He also made a presentation and solicited additional comments about the draft plan at our annual general meeting in November, 2011.
The creation of the master plan is a necessary first step in defining how our off-leash park will be developed. The plan identifies several potential developments within the off-leash area.
The master plan has been reviewed by Parks and Open Spaces staff, and we now need to decide on which elements of the plan, if any, that we wish to develop. The master plan does not address issues of funding and does not constitute formal approval by the City or the Association for the specifics of any element.
Your input as a park user is extremely important!
Main Park Problems identified by Mr. Spearman:
Lack of Seating (Benches, Picnic Tables, etc.)
Lack of Signage
Based on suggestions made by park users, "wish lists" of suggestions were created and ranked based on descending degrees of practicality. Practicality was based on cost and the professional assessment of the architect and City staff.
The Wish List A
More Benches/ Picnic Tables
Increased cut grass areas
The Wish List B
Fenced in Puppy / Small Dog Area
The following items were ranked lower because of extreme cost and/or policy considerations (such as safety, liability, jurisdictional issues, etc.). In the cases of water and power, the experience of other park users' groups in providing water and power was considered.
The Wish List C
Hand Washing / Dog Cleaning Stations
Tree planting (outside of bank area)
Dust Control on Road
The Wish List D
Pond / Doggy Spray Park
Warming Area / Overhead Heaters
Doggy Toboggan Slide
Foot bridge over the River
Additional information about the provision of power and water provided by Mr. Spearman:
With regard to lighting, you need to note that lighting is extremely expensive and often doesn't do the things people expect of it. Cost wise one of the big factors would be the cost of running the underground lines to path lights and, given the length of the paths, you would need a lot of path lights. Alternatively you could look at using solar park lights along the paths in open fields. These run between 8 to 12 k each and you would need them every 100 feet or so. Given that you don't actually have the paths developed yet I placed them on the long term list. Given the cost of servicing a regular Park light I wouldn't expect these to be much less expensive.
One more reasonable approach to lighting would be to light the parking lot area only. Again, given that the parking area isn't built yet this would have to be on the long term list. Expect something on the order of 80K for 4 parking lot fixtures and connection to Hydro. The connection to Hydro is a big risk factor here. Also, someone would have to agree to pick up the electric costs.
One of the issues with lighting is that most people expect it will improve their personal security. In a Park area it is impossible to light the entire area and thus, when you create a light area, peoples eyes adjust to the light in the light area and the dark areas become effectively much darker than they were before. The upshot is that the lighting generally doesn't actually increase personal security but only the perception of security - leading users to assume they are much safer than they actually are. As you can well understand this may result if people not taking appropriate precautions and increase their risk - exactly what we would want to avoid.
With regard to water there are other issues. I have been lead to believe that there is no city water service into the Park. The cost of bringing this to the dog Park would be prohibitive. The Mustangs Club receives their water from a well. To do this you would have the cost of drilling the well, the cost of servicing it electrically, and then you would have to do something with the waste water. That being said this might be doable but there are other issues. It might be possible to do something with them but you would have to negotiate that with them.
First, even given 'tamper proof' taps, the water service would be vandalism prone and there is a risk that it gets jammed on. This would flood the area local to the well and may cause other problems.
Testing would be on ongoing maintenance requirement. Water testing is an issue and, even noting that the water is non-potable on a sign, may not be enough to reduce the liability to the point where the City would be comfortable with it. Remember that dogs don't read signs and people may well let their dogs drink the water even with a sign. Regardless, their would be ongoing costs associated with this that would have to be covered.
Further, the area of the Park is close to the dividing line between the the saline ground water to the west of the river and the good water to the east. I understand that the increased demand on the ground water to the east is causing the saline limit to move gradually east. To address this the City tried at one point to prohibit new wells in the area. This was removed when it was pointed out that the wells are a provincial responsibility. The province doesn't regulate residential wells but may have some controls on commercial wells and a well in the Park would not be a residential well. No one sees additional wells in this area as a desirable thing.
In speaking with the City it became clear that they would not encourage a well and might actually not allow it. Even beyond this lies the question as to wether it is the environmentally responsible thing to do. In addition, and as a result of this, it would, even if allowed, be a difficult thing to obtain funding for and that, given the shaky environmental situation, users may begin to object once they realize what is happening. That is to say the support for this among your users may evaporate once they realize the environmental consequences.
The other option would be to install a holding tank and truck the water in. This would be costly on an ongoing basis and the holding tank would have to meet the criteria for being in a flood plain.
Similar to the lighting, for these reasons I would suggest that it remain on the lower end of the priority list.
Links to the final plan (pdf):
Master Plan -- chart showing location of elements of the plan
Cost Estimate for elements of the plan
Merged file of the above documents
Where Do We Go From Here?
Now that the overall plan has received City approval in principle, we need to identify which aspects of the plan should have priority. Before any construction can occur, we need to investigate means of raising the necessary funds for projects, and we will need to get formal approval of detailed plans..
The master plan will be a major topic at the Fall 2012 annual general meeting.