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Your pooch could soon roam freely in these Port Moody locations

Currently dogs in Bert Flinn Park are only allowed off-leash along a short stretch of service road at its eastern entrance.
Currently dogs are allowed off-leash in Bert Flinn Park along a short section of service road at its eastern entrance. But staff will look at implementing a pilot project to create more off-leash areas in the park.

Dogs in Port Moody could soon have more places to roam free.

Tuesday, councillors tasked staff to report back with a proposal for a pilot project implementing off-leash hours in Bert Flinn Park. They’ll also look for an appropriate location for a new off-leash area near city hall.

In her motion advocating for the former, Coun. Samantha Agtarap said many dog owners already allow their animals to run freely in the park, beyond the short stretch of service road at the park’s eastern entrance that is already designated off-leash. She said formalizing hours and designating specific trails for such activity will make the rules clear for everyone.

Several speakers during public input prior to the meeting expressed support for off-leash hours in Bert Flinn Park, while others worried untethered dogs could wander into environmentally sensitive areas and damage delicate habitat or increase the occurrence of negative interactions with other park users like hikers and cyclists.

Coun. Kyla Knowles said it’s important any pilot program allowing dogs off-leash in the park be implemented with clear guidelines and signage.

“Off-leash dogs run where they want to run,” she said. “How do we balance providing off-leash dog space without compromising the needs of people without dogs?”

Port Moody’s general manager of community development, Kate Zanon, said currently the city receives about seven to 14 complaints a year about loose dogs in Bert Flinn, of which only two or three result in tickets being issued by bylaw officers.

Coun. Haven Lurbiecki said any rules about off-leash hours in the park will only be as good as they’re enforced.

“We definitely need to be monitoring if we go ahead with this,” she said.

Coun. Amy Lubik said going ahead with a pilot project to test off-leash hours in the park is worth a shot.

“We can see how things go, whether they work or not and how to improve,” she said, adding, “Maybe we can find ways to make everybody feel safe in those areas.”

As for another off-leash area near city hall, Mayor Meghan Lahti said it’s been her observation since taking office last November that the lawn in behind Inlet Theatre is a popular spot for dog owners to let their charges run free for a few moments of exercise or chasing a ball. She said designating that spot as an off-leash area, but not delineating it with fencing or boundaries, will ease owners’ worries about possibly being ticketed.

“I’d like to take away the concern of people that they have to be on guard.”

But some councillors were concerned allowing dogs to run loose on that patch of lawn could disrupt family activities or events that often take place nearby, like weddings.

Agtarap suggested staff explore other options around city hall as well.

Lurbiecki agreed, saying off-leash dogs could have a deleterious effect on the grass behind Inlet Theatre.

“This doesn’t have to be too complicated,” Lahti said. “I’m just trying to say this is OK.”

SOUND OFF: Do think expanding the off-leash area in Bert Flinn Park is a good idea? Where would you like to see off-leash areas in Port Moody? Write us a Letter to the Editor. Be sure to include your full name and city of residence.