THUNDER BAY - Several incidents involving Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry employees and off-leash dogs at the popular Pennock Creek Trail, including a dog bite, has resulted in restrictions to public access on the property.
The MNRF Natural Resource Centre, commonly known as the Tree Farm located on the 25th Sideroad, has restricted public access around ministry buildings due to health and safety concerns.
Shelagh Duckett, coordinator at the Natural Resources Centre, said the restrictions were put in place in July after an employee was bitten by a dog in the staff parking lot and sent to hospital as a precaution.
The dog was not on a leash at the time of the incident.
“That’s the problem,” Duckett said. “Dogs are supposed to be all on leash. For common courtesy and health and safety of people, have your dog on a leash.”
The Natural Resource Centre and Pennock Creek Trail have extensive walking paths and roads that many people use to hike, cycle, and walk dogs.
Duckett said there have been several incidents over the past few years involving off-leash dogs roaming the property and bothering and jumping on employees, which she said is a health and safety concern for staff.
“The other worry is that if dogs are off-leash in the parking area, we have staff coming and going with boat trailers and different things, and somebody could get run over, or a dog could get run over,” she said. “It was just getting really out of control.”
As a result, signs are now posted at all entrances to the walking trails advising the public of areas that are off limits, primarily in the immediate vicinity of ministry buildings.
Those who fail to abide by the new restrictions could face fines, but Duckett said so far, staff have been kindly reminding anyone found near the buildings to avoid the area and no fines have been issued to date.
But it wasn’t just employees that were experiencing problems with dogs roaming the property without proper supervision.
“We’ve had complaints from some dog walkers of dogs running at large and jumping on them or attacking their dog,” Duckett said.
“I think for the most part people out here walking are great and they respect the property and clean up after their pets and look after things. But it just takes a few and it seems like there has been more and more the last few years - dogs that were just running at large.”
If the problem persists and people continue to ignore the rules, Duckett said there is the option to bring in a conservation officer to periodically patrol the property.
“I appreciate that it is a great place for the public to walk and people enjoy walking out here and we like to be able to provide the grounds for them to be able to walk on,” she said. “We don’t want it to come to that.”
The property at the Natural Resource Centre was first established in 1950 as a spacing trial and MNRF crews still work the grounds for general maintenance and scientific research.
Duckett doesn’t believe there will ever be a reason to completely restrict public access to the property and she hopes there never will be. She understands how much the public enjoys the walking trails and she hopes people will respect the property and other people.
“I encourage people to use the property,” she said. “I just think everyone has to respect the fact that it is a workplace and we have to keep the employees safe out here.”