Mayor’s message about dogs at Summit Woods

Signs of spring are unmistakable: the mild temperatures, the blooming flowers, potholes and, of course, the resumption of infrastructure projects in many municipalities. This spring will be busy one in Westmount. We are undertaking an ambitious number of infrastructure projects.

The work required to carry out these projects will undoubtedly cause some inconvenience, but these projects are essential investments for our community. I thank you in advance for your patience and cooperation during this time.

While I am keen to emphasize the importance of our infrastructure work, I would like to address the concerns surrounding Summit Woods and dog parks in our city. Many of you spoke on these topics at the last two council meetings, and I wanted to clarify the council’s position on this matter and to assure you council has heard the concerns raised by residents.

For decades, Westmounters have walked their dogs at Summit Woods. At certain periods of the year, and during specific times, they are allowed to walk their dogs off leash within the woods. Many in our community greatly appreciate this privilege, and many fear that the changes to our by-law will take it away from them.

On the other side of the issue, some residents living near Summit Woods have expressed concerns and are asking us to ban off-leash dog walking at Summit Woods at all times. Many of these concerns are similar to what we hear from residents who live near any of our large parks or schools.

Let’s be clear, as established by the province, the City has the right to designate places where dogs can or cannot be leashed. This is a municipal decision. A majority of council members support the right to walk your dog off-leash at Summit Woods at certain times of the year and during certain hours. Antonio D’Amico, councillor for District 1, where Summit Woods is located, advised the council that he would like the provincial government to decide whether to recognize Summit Woods as a park where dogs can walk off leash. However, this decision is up to us. As council members, it’s our responsibility to ensure that our municipal by-laws are up to date, that is what we are elected to do.

Therefore, the City will continue to allow Westmounters to walk their dogs off-leash, under certain conditions, at the WAG (Westmount Athletic Grounds, behind Westmount High), Westmount and King George parks and, during specific periods and times, at Summit Woods.

What will change is the increased presence of our Public Security Officers at Summit Woods and other dog parks to ensure that all dogs have a Westmount dog licence. This is imperative if we want to ensure that all dogs are vaccinated and that we have the names and addresses of their owners. This also allows us to manage the small number of dangerous dogs in our City.The fines for offenders will increase to $500 per infraction. We must also remember that our parks must be accessible to everyone. No matter where you live, you can come and enjoy our green spaces as long as you respect the rules.

I want to reiterate our commitment to preserving Summit Woods by strengthening the enforcement of our regulations. Everyone must do their part. Ensuring no new paths or entrances are made and managing the tree canopy is critical to the woods. We will also continue to seek the best advice from experts to properly manage the beautiful green spaces that are the pride of our City.

I often walk my dog Charm in Summit Woods and use our dog runs. These are places where many members of our community come together. Places where new friendships are formed. Places that bring joy to animals and people alike. We will do everything we can to enforce the rules so everyone can peacefully and safely enjoy the dog runs and Summit Woods, and respect the neighbourhoods they are in.

 

Christina M. Smith
Mayor of Westmount