Town of St. Stephen supports proposed dog park

ST. STEPHEN – At the Wednesday, Nov. 24 council meeting, St. Stephen Town Council approved in principle the creation of a dog park within the Elm Street Nature Park. The St. Stephen Dog Club, who made the proposal to council, is responsible for securing funding but may cite approval from the town in its fundraising efforts.

Councilor Phil Chisholm, who met with club representatives in early November, praised the group for the work that went into its current proposal. Chisholm called the 25-hectare Elm Street Nature Park at the north end of Elm Street a “good fit” as the dog park would be in a location that “is not going to bother anyone” and one that already serves as a park. Councilor Marg Harding had some questions about the group’s initial budget as outlined in the report submitted to council, but concluded the park would be “valuable for the town”.

The St. Stephen Dog Club, formed in 2017, now has nearly 400 members. The proposal to the town is for a 2,715 square-metre parcel, roughly the size of some supermarkets. It will be situated 178 metres from the parking lot entrance in a “partially cleared” area the club says would not impact the trees planted by the Boy Scouts or the spot previously used by Nature’s Backpack for summer programs.

Among the dog park features, the club suggests there be a double-gated entrance into an area for small dogs, and one for large dogs. They also plan for signage, benches, and garbage receptacles. The stated mission of the project is to “have a safe enclosed outdoor facility in St. Stephen for the socialization of dogs and their owners.” The club submits that their goals fit with the 2020 Municipal Plan’s focus on recreation, health and well-being, and its referral to possible dog parks. The benefits mentioned of such a park include socialization for canines, as well as for visitors, newcomers and people of different generations. The club believes with a specified space for canines in town, dog owners would no longer use recreational areas for their pups’ exercise, thus reducing friction with schools and community groups.

Elizabeth Hyslop, one of the seven members of the ad hoc dog park committee, looks forward to the work in the new year of raising the more than $55,000 the club needs. The largest portion of the cash donations, donations in kind and grants they hope to secure will go toward fencing. Hyslop feels that the group is up to the fundraising challenge, as she speaks about the energy that has come from new club members.

The present efforts build on the work begun in 2019 by founders Sheila Brooks, Karen Petersen, Tina Blair, and Kelly Price-Harrell. Now, with the town handling and administering funds, the group should have the ability to move forward. “Donors get a tax receipt, and it gives a lot more transparency than if you gave Elizabeth Hyslop $100, and she pockets $75,” Hyslop joked.

Hyslop expects the dog park will benefit both herself and her pets. She speaks about being a newcomer a few years ago and wanting to connect with people, and how happy she has been to meet fellow committee members. She also knows that proper socialization and exercise helps make more even-tempered and content pets.

“No one plays like a dog. You can throw a ball all day, but half an hour at the dog park will wipe a puppy out!” Hyslop laughs. Dog parks also keep canines safe, and Hyslop talks about the scary time she had when Rosie, an Irish Setter she was fostering, escaped during an exercise session.

The club hopes to have the park up and running by the end of May 2022. With the Town of St. Stephen support in principle, the future of the St. Stephen Dog Park is looking bright.