New off-leash opportunities for local dogs

By Jess Carrascalao Heard

The City of Melbourne has invited locals to have their say on a review of off-leash areas in the municipality, with council identifying several potential sites for pooches to run free.

The council has identified 13 new off-leash opportunities across the municipality, with two locations giving CBD residents’ dogs open-space options on the city’s southern doorstep.

CBD resident Stan Capp said there were residents in the CBD who felt there was not sufficient access to open spaces for their dogs in the local area.

“Their perception is that there’s not sufficient off-leash parks around,” he said.

Locals can have their say about the dogs in open spaces issue by visiting the Participate Melbourne website.

The project overview shows that three of the 13 potential sites are parks and reserves in existing neighbourhoods, including Customs Square, sandwiched between Flinders and Queensbridge streets.

There are also five parks which the council has earmarked as potential space which could accommodate timed off-leash access, including Wellington Park, opposite Treasury Gardens.

A further five off-leash park opportunities have been identified in future neighbourhoods, including E-gate, the Arden/Macaulay Development in North Melbourne, as well as at the Kings Way under-croft site at Southbank.

Mr Capp said he felt the council’s proposed off-leash sites had been carefully considered.

“They’ve been thought out to be respectful to our heritage gardens,” he said.

The current rules regarding the use of the large, older gardens and parks around the CBD, including Treasury Gardens, Kings Domain, Queen Victoria Gardens and Flagstaff Gardens, only allow dogs when they are on-leash.

Established in the 19th century, these gardens are classified as “Capital City and State” open spaces, and according to the council’s Open Space Strategy, they are “iconic and synonymous with the character and identity of Melbourne “.

The strategy goes on to state that they are “often used to stage activities and events of international, national, state and metropolitan importance”.

“Our view is that dogs off-leash may not be compatible with these high levels of visitation,” the Participate Melbourne website states.

Mr Capp thinks the older parks should be protected on all fronts.

“I feel very privileged to be able to access all of these parks with our dog on leash. Any new off-leash dog parks really should not intrude on the existing wonderful parks that we have available to us in the CBD,” he said.

Off-leash areas in heritage parks became a vexed issue late last year, with a Change.org petition set up by local dog-owner Gavin Macleod calling for a section of Flagstaff Gardens to be cordoned off to allow local pooches to run free. 

The petition attracted 388 signatures.

Another local dog-owner, Joanna, told CBD News last October that the available off-leash dog parks were more than 30 minutes’ walk from her home near Flagstaff.

“It’s impossible for people in full-time work,” she said.

This situation may now change. While Flagstaff Gardens is still ineligible for off-leash activities, nearby Eades Park has been identified by the council as a potential candidate for timed off-leash access.

Community consultation on the issue of dogs in open spaces is now underway at the Participate Melbourne website.

As well as having their say regarding potential and existing off-leash sites, locals also can also express their opinion on the types of access, as well as amenities for dogs at the site.

Community consultation will close on April 30. 

For more information: participate.melbourne.vic.gov.au/dogs-open-space

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