Gatineau to limit canine access to Boucher Forest
During the May 23 plenary committee meeting, the municipal council decided to limit canine access to the Boucher Forest. Specifically, dogs will be prohibited from Boucher Forest trails, with the exception of certain ones north of the Jardin-Lavigne retention basin and the trail leading to the fenced-in area via Samuel-Edey. Regulation must be developed and then brought to the municipal council; therefore, these rules are not being implemented immediately.
This decision is a compromise by the city in order for the Boucher Forest Foundation and the Aylmer Canine Club to have some of what each organization hoped for.
During the meeting, the president of the Boucher Forest Foundation, Adrian Corbo, presented the statistics from their pilot project. The Boucher Forest Foundation launched a pilot project in May 2021, allowing dogs on leash throughout the Boucher Forest until March 2022. The project included a press conference to launch the project, monthly reports on their social media, 12 posters at forest entrances highlighting the rules, and a foot patrol composed of employees and volunteers to speak with dog owners and let them know about the regulations.
According to the Boucher Forest Foundation’s statistics, during the last three months of the project, 40% of dog owners respected the rules, and there were four incidents involving aggressive dogs. One volunteer foot patroller was bitten.
The Foundation proposed that there be no access for dogs to the Boucher Forest and that there be an increased presence of city animal control officers. They said dogs impact the safety and experience of forest users, they affect the flora and fauna, they can spread ticks and diseases to wildlife, and their presence doesn't align with some of the future activities in the park such as a day camp.
“I want to highlight that there were many dog owners who respected the pilot project and I want to thank them. But unfortunately, it’s not enough to ensure the security of residents. One dog bite is one too many,” said Caroline Murray, Deschênes councillor. “Those who don’t conform to the rules are the ones who are creating consequences for everyone else. I support the compromise suggested by the city.”
During their presentation, the Foundation mentioned that they would be open to exploring the idea of a fenced pathway from the future main parking lot to the Samuel-Edey dog park. Despite their original proposal, the Foundation stated in a press release that they accept the compromise made by Gatineau.
Conversely, the Aylmer Canine Club wished to have a fenced area of the forest that would allow dogs to be off leash. Last year, the organization launched a petition for their proposal that collected over 1,800 signatures.
President of the Aylmer Canine Club, Émilie Lebel, told the Aylmer Bulletin that the Club was not invited to the plenary meeting, despite requesting to be there. Lebel also highlighted that she believed the stats used by the Boucher Forest Foundation were out of date as, since the data was collected, an enclosed dog park was created which may have had an effect on the statistics. Gilles Chagnon, Lucerne councillor, echoed this idea in a comment during the plenary committee meeting.
“It's been a long and difficult process to make our proposal known to the councillors. We've been working on it for over a year. We met with Gilles Chagnon and Steven Boivin (Aylmer Councillor) last year, and they were receptive to our ideas,” said Lebel. “We would also like to thank the Aylmer service centre for working with us and showing openness and transparency. We will continue to mobilize our members and collaborate with various partners to promote the interests of dog owners in Aylmer.”
Photo caption: Adrian Corbo, president of the Boucher Forest Foundation, addressing Municipal council members during the May 23 plenary committee meeting.
Photo credit: Screenshot from the live broadcast of the May 23 plenary committee meeting.