Off-leash dogs are a familiar sight on East Beach, and this past weekend was no exception. (Contributed photo)

Annual waterfront border-collie jamboree cancelled following concerns

Restoring water quality in Boundary Bay will require sacrifice: LCWS

An annual event that last year brought more than 100 border collies to East Beach has been cancelled.

The West Coast Border Collies jamboree had been set for Saturday (July 27), touted as a “fun-filled afternoon at the beach.”

However, following inquiries by Peace Arch News to local and provincial governments, representatives of Friends of Semiahmoo Bay Society and Little Campbell Watershed Society, as well as jamboree organizers – triggered by concerns raised by area residents – a spokesperson for the border-collie group said Sunday that the off-leash affair has been called off.

Surrey resident Adrian Brown, however, doubts that the cancellation will stop all of those who had planned to participate.

“Just because someone stated that it was cancelled, does not mean that it is,” he writes in an email to PAN Monday.

“Everyone could still show up with their dogs, in which case a reporter should be there to cover the story.”

Brown was among locals who raised red flags regarding the event last week, asking the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development to “stop this event from taking place.”

In a July 16 email to Min. Doug Donaldson and cc’ed to PAN, Brown implored the minister “to send enforcement officers to fine and remove them from the beach.”

“Border collies will chase the birds,” Brown writes.

Monday, Brown said cancellation of the jamboree is less significant than ensuring that dog owners as a whole understand that the area is protected wildlife habitat, and that consequences for violating the regulations can be severe.

Long considered by many to be OK for off-leash dogs – organizers of the border-collie event, in an interview posted to www.bordercolliefanclub.com, said they were “so blessed to have a large dog friendly beach called East Beach” for the event – East Beach is located within the Boundary Bay Wildlife Management Area, where, according to the Wildlife Act, camping, campfires and off-leash dogs are all prohibited.

For groups such as Little Campbell Watershed Society, the impact that dogs in the inter-tidal zone have on water quality is an ongoing concern. Along with urban infrastructure, rural agriculture and septic fields, it is the biggest driver of shellfish closures on both sides of the border, LCWS president David Riley told PAN.

Riley said he plans to raise the dog issue at this week’s environmental advisory committee meeting, set for Wednesday (July 24) at White Rock City Hall.

Riley said dogs in the inter-tidal is among concerns that need to be addressed if shellfish harvesting is ever to return to the bay, as is sought by Semiahmoo First Nation.

“There’s no place in North America where you can have urban density – where you can have this situation – and have shellfish-quality water,” Riley said.

Part of the challenge in addressing it, however, remains in the continued promotion of White Rock as “some kind of dog mecca.”

READ MORE: White Rock to allow dogs on promenade

Riley said all levels of government need to be involved in figuring out a solution, but that the onus also extends to the public.

“The general populace here have to understand we’re going to have to give some things up if we want to solve the water-quality problem,” he said.

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