Dogs free to have fun

By Brendan Rees & Rhonda Dredge

Popular parks in West Melbourne and Kensington could receive off-leash dog areas under a plan being considered by the City of Melbourne.

Councillors voted unanimously in favour at their Future Melbourne Committee meeting on June 7 to consider designating eight new off-leash areas for dogs including Riverside Park in Kensington and Eades Park in West Melbourne.

Under the proposal, Eades Park would be fully fenced while a timed access model at Riverside Park would see dogs run around freely between the hours of 6pm and 8am every day – with no fencing.

Eades Park is planned to have temporary fencing in the first year followed by permanent fencing the second year, subject to budget.

The recommendation comes as a review of open spaces in 2019 and two phases of community engagement in 2021 identified gaps in off-leash provisions across the municipality.

Among the doggos to celebrate the rules possibly changing in their favour at Riverside Park were Nina, Jasper and her mate.

Instead of walking for 20 minutes to JJ Holland, local dogs could have a run at their doorstep.

Riverside Park abuts the high-density residential area of the old Kensington sale yards and residents have been campaigning for an off-leash area.

There is plenty of room in this secluded riverside park and the prohibition has been confusing.

“I used to come here during the lockdown,” said Nina’s owner, a resident of Flemington. “I’m not sure when the sign went up.”

Jasper’s owner said that a lot of people ignored the sign. “Every time I come out here there are a lot of dogs off lead.”

She said locals had been petitioning the council. “It should have happened a long time ago.”

Dog owners were wary about giving their names because they didn’t want their pets to get into trouble for breaking the rules.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said with Melbourne’s dog population booming, “we see a need to up the ante when it comes to designated spaces for pooches large and small to run free – to exercise and socialise with their friends.”

If the proposal is endorsed, it would add 3.5 hectares to the existing 16 hectares of off-leash parkland across the municipality, equating to nearly 10 MCGs worth of space.

Environment portfolio lead Cr Rohan Leppert said while pets had a “really important community and individual health function”, he did get a “little bit frustrated” when people move to the city with a large dog and asked for an off-leash dog park.

“I’m not going to magic up $30 million to buy a building and build a dog off-leash park. It’s not as simple as that. So, there’s a difficult balance between government responsibility to provide these spaces for a growing dog population and individual responsibility for those living in the densest suburbs in Australia,” he said.

However, he conceded the proposal would “try and balance all of those different needs”.

Cr Davydd Griffiths said dog ownership was “something that we want to be encouraging in the City of Melbourne” as pets were “fantastic for mental and physical health”. •

 

Caption: Nina, Jasper and a mate at Riverside Park.

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