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National park debate unleashed

Islanders want to make sure their dogs can run free on trails MARTHA PERKINS EDITOR

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f you’re a dog, Bowen Island’s trails are as close to heaven on earth as you will ever get. Just ask Livy. Livy is a curly coat retriever. It’s noon on an overcast Friday but Livy is oblivious to anything she can’t smell. Bred as a hunting dog, it’s in her nature to both run and swim; she weaves across the Crippen Park trail, circling trees that are of special interest and going wherever her nose takes her. When she meets another dog, there’s an extra spring in her step. They playfully bound around one another, sniffing each other out but also eager to carry on their way down the trails. Livy is one happy dog. Her owner, June Dyson, is also very happy to be able to take Livy for long walks on the island’s trails. She’s from Alberta and also lived in Vancouver, where there were limited opportunities to let her dog run around freely. Dyson can support the idea of a national park on Bowen only if there is no accompanying rule that dogs must be on a leash in the park at all times. “It would be enough of a deal-breaker I’d leave the island,” she says. Crippen Park is one of the publiclyowned properties that are under consideration as a national park on Bowen Island. Parks Canada is looking into the feasibility of creating the park with a combination of Crown land, provincial parks, ecological reserves, municipal lands and regional parks. Parks Canada has a nation-wide rule that all dogs in a national park must be on a leash. (See accompanying story.)

Dogs like Harley love to get out and stretch their legs in the Meadow.

“Livy’s a runner,” Dyson says, as are many dogs on Bowen. Being able to let her dog run freely was a major part of her decision to move here, and it wasn’t just for the dog’s health. “I spent a winter here before I decided to move here. I didn’t think I could cope with the greyness but because I have to get out with Livy, the trees break up the greyness.” The previous Sunday, she was talking on the trails with two dog walkers. One of them mentioned that she got a $150 ticket for having her dog sit beside her unleashed in an off-island park that its leash rules. “That’s ridiculous.” In all of her walks, Dyson has had only one encounter with a badly behaved dog. It was a recent rescue dog and the family had not yet had time to train it. The new owners quickly put the dog on a leash and there have been no other problems. The Undercurrent took a walk from BICS, through the Meadow, where people like to train their dogs, across the bridge to the T and then right to Miller Road, stopping all the walkers along the way. Although the signs say that all dogs in Crippen Park are supposed to be on a leash, none of the dogs were, although most owners had leashes handy. A couple with an unleashed dog approaches. The woman, who asked not to be named, was once “injured quite badly” by a dog that was not on a leash. There are people who think they can control their dog but can’t, she says. And yet she knows how wonderful it is to let her dog run free. She is torn on the idea of a national park on Bowen. “I don’t have a problem with a national park if we have total and free access to all of our favourite places,” she says. “What is an extra fee going to provide that we don’t already have? I strongly believe in preserving the natural land but Bowen Islanders need free access.” Susan Hogan is unequivocal in her disdain for the very idea of a national park. “I’m surprised that people are actually considering this,” she says. “We come here to get away from the madness” and a park threatens to turn Bowen into something akin to an amusement park. “One of the reasons we move here is to enjoy the privacy of these forests. I’m stunned [by the notion of a national park here.] It’s an horrific idea. The paradise we have chosen, living at one with this [nature], it’s the opposite end of the spectrum [from living in the midst of a busy national park.] I don’t know anyone who would benefit.” Hogan is walking her two dogs, King Henry and Gordon, who are sniffing their way along the trail freely. “I don’t want a little park where dogs poop and play together,” she says. Along the trail comes Maggie - Princess of Bowen Island (her registered name) and her owner Diane. Diane has been

Although the sign at the entrance to Crippen Park says dogs should be on a leash, most dog walkers let their dogs run free for at least part of the way. June Dyson, above, says it’s very important to her that her dog Livy gets an opportunity to run free. If a national park were created on Bowen, and a leash rule imposed, she’d move off the island. Martha Perkins photos spending summers on Bowen Island for 42 years. She says Maggie is very well behaved and off-leash walks are good for Diane’s health too because she doesn’t have to stop every time Maggie does. A rule to force dogs onto leashes would be another thing that diminishes the charm of Bowen, Diane says. “All these people are trying to make rules and regulations about things we lived without for many years.” “Hopefully they don’t make it too stickly,” says Terri Pijnenburg, who’s out with her dog Harley. “I obey the rules, to a point,” she says with a smile. Even if a leash rule is imposed, “you know people will let their dogs off the leash.” Like the other dog owners interviewed, Pijnenburg says she lets her dog go off leash only when it’s safe and prudent. If she sees another dog approach and it’s on a leash, she puts Harley on a leash too. If she sees people she doesn’t know, or who might be nervous around an energetic dog, she puts Harley on a leash then, too. All the dog owners she knows are equally responsible. “Most dogs on Bowen know each other and are friendly,” she says. She supports the idea of a national park but is also very keen on letting Harley have a good run. But what about people who walk the trails without dogs? Frank and Kit Dale have been walking the trails on Bowen every day for 15 years. They’ve never had a problem with dogs

who are off a leash. What they feel more adamantly about is the thought of having to pay a fee to access the trails. “A fee? No. No national park,” says Kit. Farther along, two couples are out for a walk. Two of the people live in Vancouver and come to Bowen about once a year. This time they’ve brought friends from England. They’re aware of the possibility of having a national park on Bowen. In general they really like national parks but when it comes to creating one on Bowen, the Vancouver couple says “Maybe.” It’s not only dogs and humans who walk the trails. Horse riders also enjoy getting off the roads and into the forests. Katherine Beaulieu is the president of the Bowen Island Horse and Riders Association. “Our major concern is for the safety of horses and riders but also the safety of the dog,” she told the Undercurrent in a telephone interview. “A horse can cause lasting damage if it decides to kick out if it feels threatened. “We’d like owners to have complete control of their dog, whether an owner feels a leash is best or uses voice control.” Many horse riders like to go out on the trails with their own unleashed dogs. Even a dog on a leash can lunge at a passing horse so it’s best to keep a wide berth. “A horse will defend itself so it just comes down to safety and preventing anyone from getting injured,” Beaulieu says.


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Off-leash areas may be possible: Parks Canada EDITOR

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Bob Turner photo

Parks Canada a ‘fierce defender’ of land continued from PAGE 1 “Yes, it’s bureaucratic and has rules but it also has characteristics different than a provincial agency,” Steeves said. “Parks Canada is a fierce defender of the land it holds. They’re very well resourced and a very good protector of land.... Parks Canada also has money. They can do things. They’ll engage with you co-operatively but on their own terms. Your obligation is to negotiate and make sure you have a clear and specific agreement. Whatever it is you want, negotiate it and if you don’t negotiate, don’t cry about it.” Trustee Wendy Scholfield of Pender Island said that people are happier to have a park than development. She agreed that Parks Canada has the resources to do the research that needs to be done to protect the natural environment but it’s also “not an easy organization to deal with. They’re very large and bureaucratic. They have public consultation and then they do what they do because they have rules that they have to follow.” Beverly Neff of Saturna Island said, “Our 10-year history [with Parks Canada] is a successful one. Now there’s give and take. They really want to be part of the community but they’re pretty clear on what they won’t move on. We’re pretty happy with them on Saturna.”

You are invited to an

Silvaine Zimmermann, Wharfinger

Bowen Island Mayor Bob Turner said his discussion with some Pender Island residents used a marriage analogy. “Bowen Island is in the courting phase; the [Gulf Islands that have national parkland] are in the marriage phase. One of our Bowen Island members asked about prenuptial agreements and Derek answered it was an arranged marriage.” Derek is Derek Masselink, the only full-time farmer on Pender. His father negotiated with Parks Canada on behalf of the province and was invited to attend the information session with Bowen Islanders. Masselink thanked Bowen Island for formally asking the federal government to release the agreement that created the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. Islanders have not been able to see the document, which makes it difficult to ensure that everyone is holding up their end of the bargain. Scholfield agreed. “We don’t have access to the document so we can’t hold their feet to the fire.” “I think it’s an important part of full disclosure,” Mayor Turner said of the request. When one director noted that it’s taken years to receive grants in lieu of lost property taxation for park lands, Bowen Island Councillor Nerys Poole noted that the federal government bought some private lands to augment public lands in the reserve. The fed-

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Wayne Bourque, superintendent of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, far left, took a delegation of Bowen Islanders for a tour of the national park lands on Saturna Island, including this boardwalk trail.

MARTHA PERKINS t’s not that Parks Canada doesn’t like dogs or doesn’t understand why it’s good to let them run around off a leash. It’s just that Parks Canada knows that not everyone, especially in a culturally diverse society, feels the same way. The National Park Act says that all dogs must be on a leash. It gives several reasons on a fact sheet called “Furry Friends... or Foes?” “Your pet’s curiosity and playfulness may seem harmless but there can be serious consequences for wildlife,” the sheet says. A dog disturbing birds can reduce reproduction and survivorship, or separate birds from safe havens. Dogs coming across a deer can cause the deer stress or injuries that lead to death. “Deer in the southern Gulf Islands are not exposed to predators and can react frantically to an encounter with a dog.” Many people come to a national park for peace and serenity - a peace that can be disturbed by dogs. “The quality of others’ experience depends on you.” As well, “no one enjoys animals jumping on visitors, aggressive animals and dogs fighting with other dogs.” Dogs off leash can also be exposed to diseases after exposure to mushrooms, algae and ticks, or fall from cliffs. There’s no way to change the rule about dogs being on leash but that doesn’t mean dog owners can’t be accommodated as part of the discussion on whether it’s feasible to create a national park on Bowen, says Steve Langdon, the regional Parks Canada director. “If we get to a successful outcome [of the feasibility study], there’s a possibility of excluding certain areas for a dog park or designating a dog park within the park boundaries,” he said, noting that the latter option “is a bit of a departure for us.” Residents of Jasper and Banff conform to the leash rule, as do people in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, which is a more recent addition to the family of national parks in British Columbia. But Langdon recognizes how strongly people here feel about being able to let their dogs run freely. However, he adds, at the public meeting on Bowen Island a few weeks ago, “some people came up to me and said we have to get dogs under control.” As to fees for accessing the national park, Langdon says “we’re looking for some latitude within our existing fee policy.” Fees are never charged for simply driving through a national park, for instance. It’s only when people get personal benefit from park facilities, such as campsites or maintained trails, that fees can be charged. He can’t say yet how fees would be structured for a national park on Bowen Island. “We do have fairly significant discounts for buying passes early as well as promotional specials,” Langdon says. He adds that the process of public input is going well. People are asking constructive questions and providing input into what they feel about a national park on Bowen.

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September 25th @ 3:00 pm Bowen Court 1070 Miller Road

eral government is now indicating it doesn’t have the money, or the need, to purchase private lands on Bowen, where there’s enough public land available. Mayor Turner said the tour was heartening on two fronts. “People [on the islands visited] know what they think and express opinions freely, and we were getting a preview of the Bowen Island conversation.” Turner said council is looking forward to a “vigorous and robust discussion” with islanders on the park issue. “Council is not taking an advocacy position; we’re in listening mode.” Poole, in joining Turner’s praise of the welcome received on the tour, said “the tour was amazing, exactly what we needed.” Council is in the process of designing a process that ensures it hears from the public before making a decision. Poole said that council is also requesting a poll in the Lower Mainland that asks people if they’ve heard of Bowen Island and, if not, whether they’d be more willing to visit if they heard there was a national park on the island as a way of trying to gauge how many more visitors the island can expect should the park initiative go ahead. There is a public presentation by the tour participants planned for the afternoon of October 2.

B O W E N I S L A N D M U N I C I PA L I T Y

REQUEST FOR EXPRESSIONS OF INTEREST The Bowen Island Municipality is currently seeking expressions of interest for:

PART-TIME/ON-CALL SNOW REMOVAL VEHICLE OPERATORS Interested parties are requested to contact Midge Meeres, Engineering & Operations at 604-947-4255 by October 6, 2010. A driver’s licence abstract is required annually for all applicants. Please contact ICBC (1-800663-3051) and email your abstract to mmeeres@bimbc.ca. Successful candidates will be required to attend an orientation in snow removal. We wish to thank all those that have expressed an interest, however, only those selected for the training course will be contacted. Thank you, Engineering & Operations



BCYCNA - Outdoor Recreation Writing, Martha Perkins