Having worked at UVic for over 25 years, and being a long-time dog owner, I’m aware of many of the issues around the area that has historically been referred to as the UVic “Dog Field.”
Starting in the mid 90’s, after we got our first dog, I soon discovered the UVic Dog Field, which is the are located on Cedar Hill Corner X Rd across from Henderson Rec Centre. A friend and I began meeting each day, with our dogs, at 8am, prior to going into work. A group soon formed and we all became good friends, as did our dogs. WE would walk, “rain or shine” and year- round, at the “Dog Field” as it was affectionately known then. The entrance back then was where the trucks and service vans now enter. At that time, there was no fencing along the Mystic Value side, no gate, and no stairs. There were no Garbage cans either but, we dutifully picked up our Dog’s poop and took it with us. After some time, UVic Buildings and Grounds personnel brought a garbage can and left it at the gate for us to use. We were very grateful and appreciative that UVic allowed us to use their field and even brought us a place to deposit our pet’s poop.
Over the next 20 years and two more dogs, I continued to meet friends while my dogs met theirs, as we all exercised and socialized. Suring this time, UVic even expanded their services to the area, providing fencing along the Mystic Vale side and building stairs down to it. They also provided other gates and even more garbage cans. Dog owners greatly appreciated UVic’s contribution to the region’s community. It became the optimal place to bring their dogs. The “Dog Field” became a safe, fenced, serviced area for their exercise and socialization. There was no better place in the Greater Victoria region to take one’s dog.
Unfortunately, since March 2020, as COVID locked us down, the field was closed to the public. Since then, disappointingly, UVic has permanently banned dogs and their owners from using it. It ahs had a dire effect on the community and has significantly overloaded the few other areas available in the region.
Mystic Vale, an environmental jewel, is now crowded, as people are looking for a safe, accessible place to walk their dogs. Willows Beach allows dogs but only until May and it is now crowded. As well, Uplands Park has restricted months when dogs are allowed. Dallas Road, with no fencing, can be dangerous for off leash pets. Cadboro Bay Beach (East end) allows dogs year-round for now, but there are continued attempts to restrict their use. UVic’s area was ideal. It suited everyone, young and old, as it was flat, fenced and big.
When I worked at UVic, there was always talk of different ways the institution could be a good corporate citizen to the population of Greater Victoria. Never wanting to be seen as the “Ivory Tower” to the surrounding communities, UVic looked for different ways to be inclusive and welcoming to the non-UVic population. There was a desire to open the Campus up to try to make it more inviting to the non-UVic population. The “Dog Field” was always held up as a great example of UVic sharing and partnering wit the regions’ citizenry.
To add to the challenge caused by the permanent closing of the “Dog Field”, there has been a large increase in people adopting or acquiring dogs during this past year of Covid, and are now looking for places to take them.
Before, when UVic expanded services to the “Dog Field,” many came to rely on it as the place to take their dogs. It was a wonderful, expansive and contained area where everyone could meet up. When it became apparent that the closure was going to be permanent, there was extreme disappointment.
The “locked out” area now sits empty, most of each day, except for some limited usage by Athletics. It is especially difficult to see the “Fields” permanent closure as Victoria seems to be bursting at the seams, with dogs and their owners looking for safe places to go. Its important to remember as well, that many are UVic alumni who own dogs and who used that field.
If there was a possible solution that could allow even some usage, I believe it would be celebrated and lauded by many, many pet owners.
Thanks for your attention to this matter.
Regards, Kathy Shields