Toronto-Danforth Councillor Paula Fletcher is scheduled to be testifying in a court case at Old City Hall on Tuesday, April 9.
Fletcher will be a witness for Melanie Lepp, a visually impaired woman who was unable to use her local dog off-leash area due to safety concerns and was subsequently fined for using an area outside the designated off-leash area in Greenwood Park.
According to a press release from Fletcher’s office, Lepp lost her footing on the pea gravel surface in the off-leash area at Greenwood Park in 2017 and fell.
She broke her cane in the fall. The stones cut the paws of her dog, Semper, and it wouldn’t run or walk on the pea gravelled area.
After that, she used the area in the park outside the off-leash area to exercise her and was fined for doing so, the press release said.
Lepp is fighting the fine in court with the help of lawyer Ari GoldKind.
Fletcher will be there in support and to justify that pea gravel is not a desirable surface for off-leash dog parks due to both the difficulties it poses for people with mobility issues and for dogs’ paws.
The Rick Hansen Foundation- a charity dedicated to fostering ‘An inclusive world where people with disabilities are living to their full potential’– describes pea gravel surfaces as inaccessible and calls for them to be replaced in play surfaces.
A 2005 Safe Kids Canada report notes pea gravel surfaces “can be hard to walk on and cannot be used with wheelchairs or other mobility aides.”
The City of Vancouver’s dog park policy also notes pea gravel has accessibility drawbacks and is hard on dog’s paws and has a number of dog parks which use artificial turf.
Residents across the Toronto have expressed their concerns about the use of pea gravel in Toronto’s dog off-leash areas, Fletcher’s press release said.
“Everyone should have access to Toronto’s parks and that’s includes dog off-leash areas. The use of pea gravels makes these areas a no go zone for many people with mobility issues. Many residents also complain pea gravel hurts dogs’ paws. There are better options and we need to start using them to make our parks more inclusive,” said Fletcher in the press release.