Amanda Johnson with her dog Poppy. The two frequented Cedar Hill Corner multiple times a week for the last three years until University of Victoria closed the vacant lot to the public on March 30. (Amanda Johnson Photo)

Vacant lot now closed at UVic had become a popular place for dog walkers

Owners of non-socialized dogs seek safe spaces

Hundreds of dog owners who have frequented Cedar Hill Corner at the University of Victoria the past few years are now in search of an off-leashed area to let Rover run free.

UVic closed the area on March 30 for COVID-19 reasons and has now posted a sign that it will not be reopening any time soon, as the school re-evaluates how it will use the land. While many refer to it as a dog park, Cedar Corner is nothing more than a vacant lot that UVic has permitted locals to use as part of a trail network, and which is now being re-evaluated for short and medium-term use, said Mike Wilson, director of campus planning and sustainability.

As part of a UVic trail network made available to the public, the area was a favourite for owners of dogs who are socially anxious and can’t go to every park, beach or hiking trail, noted Amanda Johnson, who frequented the Cedar Hill Corner. Its closure has got many locals whimpering as there are very few fenced-in, off-leash areas available in the region, said Johnson, who relies on Cedar Hill Corner as a safe place for her dog, a rescue from the streets of Taiwan named Poppy.

READ MORE: UVic closes Finnerty Gardens and Cedar Hill Corner

“[Cedar Hill Corner] is international, it has rescues from all over the world,” Johnson said. “Everyone is very supportive of each other here. A lot of dog owners have used this place to help socialize and change their dog’s behaviours.”

Poppy, like many others who frequented the area, never got the chance to socialize and has anxiety issues. Now, Johnson is unsure how often she’ll be able to let Poppy off the leash to run.

“I thought Victoria was a dog-friendly area until I got a dog,” Johnson said. “There’s so many parks I can’t be in with my dog, and it’s hard to find a [place to rent].”

Johnson is one of 1,500 members of the Facebook page UVic Dog Park Pals (it’s not a , where there is a discussion underway on what the best options are.

One user is Katie Markham, who said there is no play between dogs like an off-leash play, even for dogs who have “leash aggression.”

“One of the best ways to deal with that is actually off-leash training,” Markham said. “You can feel the joy they are having.”

In nearby Saanich, most of its 170 parks are dog friendly, aside from environmentally sensitive places such as Cadboro-Gyro Park and Mount Douglas Park, from which dogs are banned from May 1 to Aug. 31 (dogs are permitted on Cadboro Bay Beach before 9 a.m.). Dogs can even go off-leash at those parks permitted that they’re well trained and will return to the owner when called.

READ ALSO: Public consultation of off-leash dogs on Saanich beaches continues

In Victoria, there are 13 “leash optional” parks that “responsible” dog owners may use. Oak Bay, the municipality that Cedar Hill Corner falls in, has plenty of restricted areas such as Uplands Park but also has 11 spots with no restrictions (Cattle Point, Haynes Park) and others that are seasonal, such as McNeill Bay and Willows Beach.

It all comes down to what Saanich calls “petiquette.”

Poppy (Amanda Johnson Photo)

reporter@oakbaynews.com

– This story was updated July 17 to correct an error that Cedar Hill Corner is not a park, but is surplus land UVic had previously made available to the public. The News regrets the error.

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