Community mourns loss of dog park advocate
Thursday, Oct 05, 2017 06:00 am
The sudden and tragic loss of community and dog park advocate Jim Uffelmann last week was met with shock and disbelief by his many friends and fellow community members.
Jim, 57, was reported to have been volunteering in “one of his favourite parks” in the Kananaskis area when he was struck by a falling tree on Sept. 25; he succumbed to his injuries Sept. 29.
“I always called him the unofficial mayor of the dog park,” said park user Glen Holmes – one of some 200 people and their four-legged companions who gathered for an evening vigil in honour of their late friend on Oct. 1.
Members of a popular Facebook group he administered, ‘Cochrane Citizens and Dog Park Users, organized “the light up the park for Jim and Lulu” event - Lulu being Jim’s 11-year-old best friend, a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon canine who he took to the park twice daily on average.
Jim was known for his advocacy of the existing off-leash dog park in Riverview, and biannual ‘Poopalooza’ park clean-ups.
He ran unsuccessfully for town council in 2013 and was planning to run in the 2017 election but had a change of heart before nomination day.
He wrote letters on a regular basis to the town papers, reached out to administration and councillors when he took issue with a hot topic and rallied park users to advocate for the need to not only preserve their existing park but for more parks.
“I’m overwhelmed,” said Patti McDonald, Jim’s partner of eight years, who made an appearance with Lulu to walk among friends.
“He knows what he meant to me,” she softly said, when asked what her late partner meant to her.
For close friends, he will be remembered for his generosity in friendship and passion for everything outdoors, as an avid skier, cyclist and nature photographer.
“I’ll remember Jim every time I’m doing any kind of activity outdoors,” said Ken Anderson, close friend of more than 25 years. “We shared a lot of passions in life – biking, skiing … he was like another uncle to my girls.”
Jim moved to Cochrane in 2005 from Banff, where he worked in the hospitality industry and was originally from Ontario.
Jeff Genung was on council more than a decade ago and remembers working with Jim to extend the existing off-leash park. He commended his late friend for his advocacy.
“I’m going to get this park named after him,” said Genung, who is seeking election this fall to the mayor’s chair.
Cochrane dog walker and avid park user Scott Kerr-Smith has offered to take over administration of Jim’s Cochrane Citizens and Dog Park Users page.
“The page is important as it is a voice and meeting point for one of the biggest single groups of tax payers in this town,” said Kerr-Smith.
“I think Jim’s greatest issue I want to see carried on is the change in mindset from a dog park being about dogs to one where it is about recreation facilities for citizens whose chosen form of recreation involves their dogs.”
Jim also leaves behind two sisters, Maris and Sarah, and his father, Fred.