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Could dogs make this Vernon park a safer place?

FILE PHOTO: A cyclist rides through Vernon's Polson Park.
August 15, 2017 - 6:30 PM

VERNON - A North Okanagan city has quietly been working on strategies to turn a popular downtown park into a more inviting place.

The City of Vernon, which recently made it illegal to have a temporary shelter between the hours of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in city parks, is working on ways to enhance its signature public space: Polson Park. 

At last count, roughly 40 people were camped out in the city, according to Vernon bylaw. Many have erected shelters at the back of Polson Park along the boardwalk.

Several initiatives were released yesterday, Aug. 14, as part of a declassified motion titled "Interim Strategy for Polson Park Improvements". The motion was initially part of an in-camera, or private, meeting held by council.

The motion directs city staff to investigate and report back on the details, costs, source of funds and implications of four measures, including creating a two-year pilot program to allow dogs, on-leash, in the park; replacing the sand at the Polson Park playground with a compressed rubber surfacing; trimming vegetation along the path and boardwalk; and enhancing bylaw compliance presence.

Polson Park was the focus of a recent petition in which residents called on government to make the space "safe again" citing issues with crime and the number of discarded needles. 

Vernon Mayor Akbal Mund says council has been discussing ways to improve things in the park. 

“We’ve been working on a lot of these ideas to say ‘how can we make the park more open to more residents?’ As we all know, the more people in an area, the less crime there actually is,” Mayor Akbal Mund says of the initiatives.

He says switching the playground to a rubberized surface would prevent discarded needles from becoming buried in the sand.

“We’re trying to make the park what people expect the park to be,” Mund says. “We’re trying to do it under the legal rights of everybody, that’s all we’re doing.”

Costs for the initiatives are not yet known, but a proposed donation from Kal Tire is a possibility for the playground resurfacing. Allowing on-leash dogs — a first for the park — would likely include provisions for waste receptacles, signage and water stations. 

On Monday, Aug. 14, Vernon council voted to approve a series of bylaw amendments for temporary shelters in city parks and penalties for those in contravention. The City says it will be “transitioning” people who are currently camping in parks to the new regulations over the next couple of weeks.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © iNFOnews, 2017

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