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Council to seek the community’s say over much-needed dog park upgrade 

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Brendan Rees

The City of Port Phillip will seek the community’s input after approving a $140,000 plan to upgrade a popular park in South Melbourne, which locals say is currently “unsafe”.   

An online petition, started by South Melbourne resident Marjorie Main, was presented to Port Phillip Council’s meeting on October 19, where councillors discussed ways of improving the look and use of the Eastern Road Reserve North dog park, including a controversial proposal to ditch the grass in favour of granitic sand.

According to the 450-strong petition, the condition of the park, which is widely used by the community, was “unreliable” with poorly maintained gates and fencing, while the state of the grass was also “extremely poor” and a risk to public health.

The issue was heightened after a whippet escaped the park’s gates and was hit by a car on Eastern Rd in August last year with residents imploring the council to act.

Councillors voted at the meeting to consult with the community in which it would consider the future use of the park, however, it rejected a proposal to upgrade the park’s fencing “at this time”, with council officers to conduct an “assessment of fencing for fenced dog parks in the development of the off-leash dog guidelines”.

The council will also review its maintenance schedule and ensure it’s adequate for the high use of the park, which is also frequented by residents of Southbank Village, while community consultation on whether to replace the park’s grass with granitic sand would also be considered.

However, the council’s interim CEO Chris Carrol said given the challenges around overshadowing trees and people frequently using the park, the grass would struggle to grow.

“There is opportunities potentially at other dog parks in other areas which are larger … which have better natural features to support grass,” Mr Carrol said, but added, “in this particular case our conclusion is that trying to make this a grass facility year-round is going to be very expensive and probably not very effective.”

Cr Heather Cunsolo said it would be a shame to lose the grass and the “weather is on our side for the next few months” but she acknowledged the Park St end of the reserve “looks very tired” and believed using granitic sand would be a “good update”.

Ms Main, the head petitioner, said she was appreciative of the council being “so responsive” to the community’s concerns, but she hoped “nonetheless that they reconsider their decision to leave the fence and gates as they are” with double gates being most preferable.

“I’d love to see the park be a place that reflects that pride. It could be a really beautiful space,” she said.

 

“This is the only fully-fenced dog park in the City of Port Phillip, it meets a lot of pet owners’ need. Dogs and people are diverse and have different accessibility requirements, so I hope the council will be proactive and reconsider their stance on the fence and gates, especially as this was at the core of our petition.”

 

In August, Ms Main said she planted new grass seeds in a muddy section of the park which is “lovely and green now and the dogs love it”. 

“Increased vegetation, especially natives, would also be amazing and hopefully make the park more attractive to all residents and passers-by, as well as really suit the South Melbourne leafy aesthetic,” she said.

Ms Main conducted her own community survey in which 57 per cent of respondents said they’d like the park to stay grassed, while the remainder said they’d like a combination of grass and sand.

The council’s community engagement will also consider additional vegetation and a play component for dogs while the operating hours of Eastern Reserve North Dog Park and its enforcement would be considered as part of the dog off-leash guideline development. •

 

Caption: Marjorie Main is happy that the City of Port Phillip is listening to community concerns about the state of the Eastern Road Reserve dog park.

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