Council will revisit the history on dogs at the beach after a handful of Oak Bay residents asked for a little more space, or time at Willows Beach.
Dogs are prohibited on the popular beach May 1 through Sept. 30.
Four people called in to the streamed meeting on May 17 when council met as committee. All four asked council members to consider opening options for dog owners and walkers. Suggestions included potentially allowing dogs and their owners early in the morning when the beach is primarily empty or having a stretch reserved for dogs and owners.
It’s also about equitable community access, said resident Kristy Kilpatrick, adding the beach is shared seven months of the year and residents with dogs are banned for the other five.
“It’s been vital to physical and mental health, especially this second summer of COVID,” Kilpatrick said. “If it’s because 25 years ago dog owners didn’t pick up after their dogs, we all recognize there’s been a huge culture shift that’s taken place on that issue since then. Poop bags are now part of the daily tool kit for people with dogs.”
Mayor Kevin Murdoch noted work done a few years ago rejigged some park use, allowing dogs off leash at McNeill Bay full time.
Dogs are permitted year-round at Loon Bay Park (off Beach Drive at the end of Exeter Road), Cattle Point (across from Uplands Park), Haynes Park (near the end of Beresford Street), Marina Park Beach, McMicking Point (foot of Newport Avenue) and McNeill Bay Beach (300-block of Beach Drive).’
As recently as 2019, Oak Bay considered making the south end of the beach off-limits to dogs year-round to protect the 153 species of birds sighted in the area – a number that makes it one of the best birding areas in Victoria. The Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary spans from the Gorge, through Victoria Harbour, and along the shoreline up to the Oak Bay. It was established in 1923 to actively protect species and ecosystems directly affected by human activity.
“Willows beach is an amazing community asset and we’re just asking it be more equitably shared,” Kilpatrick said.
Coun. Tara Ney found the arguments compelling, and committee agreed with her motion to ask staff to return with some backstory on the issue of dogs at Willows.
A return date for the information is not yet defined. Council next meets June 14 at 7 p.m. Find the meeting and agenda online at oakbay.civicweb.net.
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