The City of Delta is home to the largest Bald Eagle population in all of Canada. A safe haven and stopover for the migrating raptors, as well as a nesting ground for the resident eagles to raise their young. The North 40 Park Reserve, or more commonly known as the ‘North 40 Dog Park’ hosts one of the largest congregations of Bald Eagles of varying ages. Look up in the sky and you’ll see dozens of them circling above you or dashing 10 feet by you. Look down and you’ll see man’s best friend running between your legs. For years, the residents of Delta have coexisted with avid birders and photographers who flock to the park for some of the most spectacular sights.
I have been visiting the North 40 for the last 4 years. Every winter, after the eagles leave Harrison Mills and make their way to Delta, I wait excitedly, for the sky to fill with silhouettes of soaring raptors.
In the last several years, the tension between dog owners and birders/photographers has increased. Parking in the small, dirt lot has become cramped as more and more people ‘discover’ this hidden gem, the film industry included. As a side note, the City of Delta leases areas of the park to production companies, seeing profit for hosting a prime shooting location, meanwhile disrupting sensitive bird species while they roost.
Early this week, I was at the North 40 with friends, there to photograph the eagles and wintering songbirds. As the group of us were departing the parking lot, to enter the park, we were stopped by a Bylaw Enforcement Officer. He notified us that the City had ‘just’ made the parking lot for dog owners ‘only’ and that all others in violation, would be ticketed. “It’s a dog park, so it’s meant for dog owners” was the reasoning. Due to the media’s eloquent nature to shine unwelcome attention, tour buses from as far as Oregon have been showing up on a Sunday afternoon, at the peak of the day. Dog owners are ‘forced’ to park on the shoulder, where they incur a $50 parking ticket and complain to the city. As a result of these new developments, the avid birder or wildlife photographer is being blamed for dog owners incurring said parking tickets and the new by-law is in effect immediately. I sit on the fence with this by-law; I can see where both parties come from, yet I see how both parties are needed to maintain this symbiotic balance. Your over-eager photographer may approach a sensitive or threatened bird species beyond ethical distance. If the parking lot were filled with cars belonging to birder photographers, this would pose a danger to the wildlife that rely on the heavily canopied trails. Your entrepreneurial dog-walker may have more dogs than they can handle, of different temperaments, some who may not know how to handle reactive-aggressive natured dogs. If the parking lot were filled with cars belonging to the entrepreneur, many more dog incidences could potentially occur. Having a mix of dog-walkers and naturalists enjoying the park at any given time
My bottom line is this: the dog park is still a park. It is funded by money received by the municipality. Canadians tax dollars go into maintaining this haven for wildlife and mankind alike. Instead of pointing the finger at one specific group and stating they have less rights to be there, come up with a long term solution where we may all feel welcome and enjoy this space. This new bylaw is nothing more than a band-aid solution that city officials have slapped down as a reaction to a few unhappy people.
Since posting this, it has been brought to my attention that the sign has now been removed. For now, it would appear as though the situation has been temporarily resolved.