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Future of Eby Farmstead in Waterloo Park under consideration

Future of Eby Farmstead in Waterloo Park under consideration

The Waterloo City Council on Monday approved a staff recommendation to evaluate the future of Eby Farmstead in Waterloo Park.

Councillors unanimously passed the motion after hearing a report which suggested community feedback be sought on the farm and that staff would investigate live animal exhibits to see if they were feasible in the future.

The farm is home to llamas, an alpaca, donkeys and miniature horses.

They will spend the winter on a private farm outside the park, but will return to Waterloo Park in June. This could be their last year there, depending on what the council ultimately decides after public consultation.

Young park visitor Brendan Moogk-Soulis thinks it would be good to assess the space.

“Sometimes (the animals) cheer me up. But sometimes I just feel sorry for them because they’re in a fence. I wouldn’t want to sit there in that cage by myself and let everyone see me,” he said.

The public feedback period is expected to last through the summer and the plan will be evaluated prior to the Waterloo Park Plan update in 2025.

The reason for keeping this separate from the general park engagement period is that the council expects a lot of feedback and does not want the farm discussion to overshadow the general park update.

Concerns have been raised about the community for years. The space was used to house black bears, cougars and wolves before being converted to pets in the 1990s due to safety concerns.

The park has also been the site of protests over the years. Now that the city is growing, the council is realizing that there are other concerns.

“The welfare of the animals. Especially with the introduction of the LRT and it running from about five in the morning until almost one at night, how disruptive is that to the animals that are there?” said Waterloo Mayor Dorothy McCabe.

Despite the farm being 2.1 hectares in size, McCabe says the council will also look at whether that is enough space for the animals.

“The idea of ​​keeping animals that are used to grazing on a much larger area, is that the right place to keep animals?” McCabe said, referring to another question on the table.

Because there are no fixed opening hours, people can also visit the park at night, which can lead to even more disturbance for the animals.

The fear grew even greater in 2022 when a fire broke out in the llama enclosure.

According to McCabe, cost is also a factor the council will take into account.

“It also costs $75,000 a year to maintain what we have,” she said.

If a decision is ultimately made to relocate the animals, the city says it will ensure they have a safe place to go.

“We would talk to the owners of the winter home and make sure they are well cared for,” McCabe said.