Dog-friendly parking lot enhances safety at Carlson Park

A fence surrounds the parking lot at Carlson Park
/ Community, Partnerships

Before we begin a project, we make a plan for how we’re going to restore our worksite to the way it was before, and we look for ways to make the site even better. After completing important gas line upgrade work in Carlson Park in Vernon, part of the Inland Gas Upgrades (IGU) Project, we had the opportunity to restore the site with a parking lot to help make the park more accessible, and safer, for park visitors and their four-legged friends. 

Carlson Park is a hidden gem

Bench Road leading in to Carlson Park
Carlson Park is located on Bench Row Road in Vernon.

Carlson Park is a little-known off-leash dog park southwest of downtown Vernon. Visitors access the park from Bench Row Road, a straight stretch of road with no off-road parking.

Vernon’s Mayor Victor Cumming, a dog owner and regular Carlson Park visitor, says, “The park is a hidden gem. It has many well-treed trails that provide lots of shade in the summer and an open area with a beautiful view of the valley, but parking has always been an issue. The park wasn’t well used by the public because in order to access it, you had to park on the gravel shoulder across from the park. This is a very busy road with a 60 kph speed limit—there weren’t many people willing to cross the road to get to it.”

Restoration plan helped improve park access and safety

The new dog gate installed at the edge of the Carlson Park parking lot
A double dog-gate helps with the transition between the on-leash area in the parking lot and the off-leash dog park.

A solution to the park’s lack of accessibility came about due to some gas line upgrade work FortisBC needed to do in the park, as part of our IGU Project. The work involved upgrading 800 metres of gas line and installing a new pressure regulating station on our gas line right of way—which is near the entrance to Carlson Park.

Scott Bartlett, the IGU project director, says, “To accomplish this work we needed to expand our footprint at the site. During construction, it was important to have enough room for our crews to work safely, park vehicles and store equipment off the road. We also needed additional workspace to install the new pressure regulating station.”

The project team reached out to the City of Vernon and arranged to purchase a small parcel of land at the site. The application to make that purchase included the plan for how we were going to restore the area when the upgrade work was finished.

“Since we were already building a temporary parking lot for construction, the project team said, ‘Why don’t we just make it permanent?’,” explains Scott. “When we took the idea to the City of Vernon, they expanded on it, suggesting additional features that would help make the parking lot even safer for park-users and their dogs.”

The end result was a dog-friendly, 12-space paved parking lot including safety features such as a chain link fence surrounding the perimeter of the lot and a double dog-gate to help with the transition between the on- and off-leash areas. The restoration also included new, highly visible park signage.

Collaboration results in a double win

FortisBC and Vernon staff cut a ceremonial ribbon to signify the completion of the Carlson Park fence upgrade
L to R: FortisBC’s Michael Defeo and Scott Bartlett join Vernon’s Mayor Victor Cumming and Councillor Teresa Durning at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Carlson Park parking lot in Vernon.

“Safety is one of FortisBC’s core values,” says Scott. “It was exciting for us to have the opportunity to collaborate with the City of Vernon and restore our worksite by giving something back to the Vernon community that’s designed to enhance park-user safety.”

Mayor Cumming agrees, “Safety for visitors to Carlson Park has improved dramatically due to the addition of the new parking lot. This is the kind of relationship that really works for us as a city. You have a utility and a municipality with different objectives, but they’ve worked together to achieve a positive outcome for both. FortisBC has upgraded its gas line to help ensure they maintain a safe and efficient gas system, and we end up with this lovely parking lot that enhances park use and safety. It’s a double win.”

The IGU Project is scheduled to continue throughout 2024. Visit our project page to learn more.