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COLUMN: Midland dog park needs improvements to make it 'truly special'

Little Lake dog park has seen increased use since start of pandemic, town should ensure winter access, writer says
From top, Hunter, Arthur, Ramsey and Jasper each try their best to pry away this prize-winning stick.

Since the start of the pandemic, there has been increasing talk about the formation of an advocacy association for the maintenance and improvement of the dog park in Midland’s beautiful Little Lake Park.

Midland Little Lake Dog Park is small, but it’s the perfect size for people who are conscientious about ensuring their dogs are controlled at all times. Larger parks often prevent an owner from getting to a dog in trouble because it takes too long to reach them. Fights or injuries may happen before owners can prevent it.

Thanks must go to the Town of Midland for providing this fully-enclosed fenced area where dogs can run off-leash in such a beautiful setting. Those who use the park daily are grateful for the installation of running water in summer. It’s been a huge help, providing drinking water for thirsty dogs, though the area around the tap is always muddy. However, the pups love it, mud and all. Unfortunately!

We also appreciate the regular garbage pick-up which saves us having to carry home the unpleasant aftereffects of our dogs’ vigorous exercise at the park, the downside of canine companionship, to wit: those stinky little coloured bags of waste, dung, poop, doggy doo-doo. Oh, the things we do for love of our pets!

But the park has one major problem. There is no winter access.

For many years, the entire park was closed off during the winter. At the season’s first flake of snow, the main road through the park and access to all park areas was blocked off. The entrance to the dog park itself was padlocked from October to April.

However, since the beginning of the pandemic, people are spending a lot more time outdoors. So many people adopted dogs for work-at-home company that at times, pounds and shelters found themselves empty. The doggy dynamic has changed over the last three years. More people (and certainly more dogs) need more facilities including accessible off-leash dog parks, and we need them year-round.

(Tiffin Park off William Street also has an off-leash area, but again it's not accessible during the winter).

To make the Little Lake dog park truly special, there are other improvements that need to be done as well, such as shaded areas for people to sit in summer.

In the late afternoon, the only shady area is in “poop city”, up behind the tiny stand of shrubbery. This is where most of the dogs choose to do their business. Some dogs are shy, choosing to hide their excretory activity behind the bushes. Though we all try to keep the dog park clean, sometimes we simply don’t notice when or where they’ve made a deposit. From personal experience, I can tell you it’s downright dangerous to sit on the sparse grass, and not only because of the “ick factor”. 

Though it’s against the official dog park rules posted by the town, children occasionally run barefoot there, and since many diseases like hookworm are zoonotic — passed from animals to people — anyone in direct contact with the ground is at risk, so a shaded seating area would be much appreciated. A line of trees along the western fence and a couple of picnic tables would accomplish this nicely, as well as adding to the beauty of the park as a whole.

Last year, there were three picnic tables in the dog park, which provided plenty of socially-distanced seating for users. They were removed to the small pavilion by the volleyball courts and only one was ever replaced. One or more additional tables would give people a conversation area, as well as provide small areas of shade for the dogs on hot days.

Requested Improvements (in order of importance):

1. Road and a small parking area for cars plowed in winter.


  • People who are elderly, overweight or unfit can’t get to the dog park for exercise and social interaction for themselves or their dogs, and the dog park is a popular outdoor place to socialize, more than ever since the start of the pandemic. People have rediscovered Little Lake Park in a way not seen since the 1950’s. Doesn’t it make sense to provide year-round maintenance for its facilities? Particularly now that our Georgian Bay woodland waterfront area downtown may soon be paved over with high-priced, high-rise condos and strip malls. (Incidentally…a water-access dog park at Midland Bay Landing would be a terrific idea!)
  • Children can’t get to the new playground in the park in the winter. The town paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for a children’s playground which is inaccessible during the snowy months. Where’s the sense in that?
  • The Town of Midland is at risk for insurance claims because those who want to reach the dog park and the playground have to walk down a steep, icy hill to reach these areas. The ice by the native village is particularly dangerous, and when vehicles traverse the walking trail in an attempt to bypass the road closure it puts people and dogs at risk.

2. Shade trees along the outside of the western fence. 

  • The only shade on summer afternoons is in “poop city”, which, apart from being di-stink-tly unpleasant, also blocks the view. Dogs range through the whole fenced area, and if a dog decides to go potty or get into an argument, any owner sitting or standing in the shaded area can’t see past the shrubbery to prevent fights, police puppy pooping, or see other dogs arriving. Like people, dogs have friends and enemies. If someone comes in with a dog who doesn’t like one of the dogs already there, it helps if the owner can see and anticipate trouble and get one of them out before a fight ensues. 
  • A row of shade trees along the outside of the western fence would provide natural shade without blocking owners’ view of their dogs. Many of us brought our own folding chairs and tarps for shade last summer, though our tarps were removed. Trees and an extra couple of picnic tables would solve this problem at little cost. 
  • Oak, maple, butternut or chestnut trees would have the added benefit of giving the local squirrel population a food source. We can even provide saplings. And labour.

3. Windbreak for rainy, windy, snowy days. On hot days, the wind is welcome. In winter, it’s bone-chilling. 

  • A plexiglass sheet or a couple of pieces of plywood attached to the western fence would cut the wind that always blows across the lake. 

4. A couple more picnic tables 

  • The one we have now is used far more often than the permanent benches in the park. One or two more would provide a better conversation area, while still offering social distancing. 

5. Automatic Poop-bag dispensers

  • Dog parks in nearby municipalities have provided these, which go a long way to keeping the park clean. All too often if someone forgets to bring a baggie, the poop gets left, a disease hazard and unsightly deterrent to users.


These are items that would be really nice to have, but would require major funding and co-operation with the Town of Midland Parks Department. An advocacy group could be a significant source of fund-raising through a variety of means. 

6. Small pavilion with seating for several people, hooks for leashes and shelving for lost and found items. 

7. Off-leash access to Little Lake, or a mini splash-pad / small pool for dogs.

8. Expand the fenced area to include woodland up to the native village and Huronia Museum.

Do you and your dog use the Little Lake Dog Park? Would you be interested in being part of an advocacy group and help maintain and improve the facilities?

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Bev Hanna is a writer and published author. A recovering artist, she now teaches senior writers how to craft compelling stories and memoirs, and manages the Let’s Write group at the Askennonia Senior Centre.