Enthusiastic Park Rangers

Recently while hiking at Lynn Headwaters in North Vancouver Avy and I came across a rather strict park ranger. If you are familiar with the Lynn Park area you know that there is a parking lot at the end of Lynn Valley Road at the entrance to the park. At the entrance to the park there is a 0.4 km trail (the start of the Lynn Loop Trail) which is designated on-leash.

The section of trail that is on-leash runs by the park trail map, storage garage, bathrooms and extends over the bridge. At the trailhead next to the Hiker Registration the Lower Lynn Loop Trail becomes leash optional and you can let your dog go and run free.

While I was waiting for my friends to arrive Avy and I were wandering around in the on-leash section, checking out the map and people watching. The Park Ranger drove by me in his ATV and gave Avy and I a look, but as she was on leash he really couldn’t take issue with us. Just behind us though, were two dog owners who were walking through the area with their dogs off leash. Both were wearing packs (the owners not the dogs) and they had obviously just come off the Lynn Loop Trail. I heard one of them say “uh oh” as he leashed his dog and turned around to see the Ranger had stopped his ATV and was getting out. As the Ranger approached the owners one of them said “we know, the dogs should have been on-leash – sorry, we’ll make sure they stay on in this area”. The Ranger approached them and engaged in a conversation that lasted a few minutes. At one point one of the dog owners started to walk away when the Ranger stopped him and said “excuse me, I’m trying to have a conversation with both of you”. The dog owner, looking clearly annoyed, said “I don’t see the point in continuing”. The Ranger went on to explain again that bylaws in the area require your dog be leashed through that section. I walked away at this point but noticed the conversation continued for a least a minute or two after I left.

All parties in the conversation were clearly annoyed at the outcome – the Ranger because he didn’t think the owners were listening to him and the owners because they felt that the Ranger was needlessly continuing a conversation when they already understood that they were in the wrong.

So who is more right in this situation? I had some time to think about it as I waited for my friends and came to a few conclusions. The dog owners were wrong, they KNEW they were wrong and had clearly made a conscious decision to walk their dogs off-leash even though it wasn’t allowed. The Ranger felt that his authority wasn’t being respected and therefore continued to press the point well after his point had been made. So what is the right solution?

Clearly there is a reason that the area the dogs were in have been declared off-leash. If I had to guess I would say it’s partly because of the location of the parking lot right next to the trail, the number of people that tend to gather in that area and the danger of dogs jumping in the water at a very dangerous spot. All good reasons to declare it on-leash. The problem in this case was the Rangers approach. He confronted the owners – who quickly admitted they were in the wrong – in a fairly aggressive/stern way which put them off and resulted in them discounting what he was saying. Had the Ranger approached in a more friendly, informative way he would likely have been more successful in making his point.

Moral of the story: dog owners AND rangers need to be more mindful and respectful. Owners – remember that the rules aren’t put in place to annoy you, trails are declared on-leash for a reason. Rangers – keep in mind that nobody likes to be scolded. You’ll get more buy in if you take a friendlier, education based approach.

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