Residents barking mad over new dog park as calls grow for more useable spaces
A new dog park in Southbank has sparked a strong reaction from the community with some dog owners saying the size and functionality of the space was “simply unacceptable.”
After its much anticipated opening in March, residents have flocked to the new City Rd dog park, a formerly disused area beneath the Kings Way southern undercroft.
But with the absence of grass and an off-leash space the size of a basketball court, fed-up dog owners have resorted to taking their pooches elsewhere.
“I think the worst part of this terribly executed dog park is being located in the continuously developing Southbank area,” resident Shannon Garrett said.
“You are basically packing in Great Danes and Chihuahuas into a tiny, gated space and it just doesn’t work.”
“It is too small, has no grass which results in dogs getting positively filthy when playing there as well as the owners when enough dust is kicked up.”
Ms Garrett said it was also “laughable” that the poo bags and bins were positioned outside of the play space “so the owners need to physically leave to toss out causing more reason to open the treacherous gates.”
However, Southbank Residents’ Association president Tony Penna said while the dog park was a confined space, “people are just grateful that finally Southbank has an off-lead dog park.”
“Overall, it’s been received really well,” he said.
We’ve been lobbying for an off-lead dog park for at least six years now. Could there be some improvements? Absolutely there could be, but we’re so grateful we’ve got what we got.
“I think there a few people that are not used to using off-lead dog parks because it is a confined space, so some dogs don’t take kindly to other dogs and all that sort of stuff.”
But he questioned, “How do you get that balance right of providing the dog park for dog owners and then at the same time getting the most out of open space for the residents? I haven’t got the answer for it, but you’ve got to give council credit for making an effort.”
The new dog park is an initiative of the City of Melbourne’s City Road Master Plan, which Lord Mayor Sally Capp said last year was an “area that is in desperate need of improvement and we want this dog park to become a favourite for locals, whether they are human or hound”.
Addressing concerns about the gravel surface, the council recently said it would reduce the risk of creating a breeding ground for internal parasites.
In March, the Lord Mayor said the council had worked swiftly to fix the height of the fence that was causing issues for smaller dogs, and would ensure the “new park is as safe and pooch-friendly as possible.”
But for Somikaa Mahapatra, a Southbank resident of seven years, the new dog park had not been practical with the gravel surface causing discomfort for dogs’ paws while bigger dogs wanting to play “tend to hurt and smother the other ones.”
“We had no other choice but to take to take them to Boyd Park,” she said, adding she was speaking on behalf of about 20 unhappy dog owners who had done the same thing.
“The intent of the park is a really good gesture of the council; I’m not taking that away. It’s about giving us a park that we can use.”
“When we saw the dog park was taking ages to come up, we thought it was going to be a really good one,” she said, but after the park’s opening added, “We thought it was still unfinished because there was no grass.”
Other issues Ms Mahapatra raised was feeling “very uncomfortable” with the limited social distancing and the risk of exposure to COVID-19, and barking dogs “scaring the people waiting for the trams” nearby.
Steve Davidson, the administrator of Kings Way and Moray St Reserve dog park Facebook page, said some of the “teething issues” had yet to be addressed including a new water fountain and relocation of dog bins.
But in terms of the space, he said “there seems to be no issue with dogs running at full speed and being agile enough.”
While he was disappointed that there was no grass, he acknowledged, “it’s better than nothing.”
Jannine Pattison, spokesperson for the residents’ group Southbank3006, said the new space had been “well received by the paw parents of Southbank” and can “happily report that the council has now installed a double gate system to ensure the safety of all dogs in the play area.”
“There are still several defects that have temporary fixes, like the water bowl system and the timber at the gate to close a significant gap, but council is committed to rectifying these defects,” she said.
Ms Pattison said Southbank3006 would continue to advocate for more green space in Southbank for residents and “will continue to lobby for useable space that can be activated and converted to off leash dog parks for the dogs who call Southbank home.” •
Southbank resident Somikaa Mahapatra is unhappy about the new City Rd dog park. Picture: John Tadigiri.