Murchison Square put on backburner as an off-leash dog park following community opposition
The City of Melbourne has ditched, at least for now, a controversial proposal to make Murchison Square an off-leash timed access dog park following an uproar from the community.
The proposal would have allowed dogs off-leash at Carlton’s Murchison Square between the hours of 6pm and 8am every day with no fencing.
The recommendation was part of the council’s review of open spaces in 2019 with two phases of community engagement in 2021 which aimed to identify gaps in off-leash dog areas across the municipality.
Councillors ultimately approved seven existing parks as off-leash areas at their June 28 meeting, but in an eleventh-hour decision, councillors voted unanimously to withdraw Murchison Square from the list.
“On much reflection, I believe that the evidence-base for Murchison Square is not as a robust as we’d like it to be at this stage, so it is proven to us to not continue with Murchison Square at this time,” Cr Rohan Leppert said, who led a motion to exclude Murchison Square.
The decision came after community members banded together to submit an 83-page document to council outlining their concerns over the proposal.
Carlton resident of 35 years Barb Jennings, who was one of more than 20 locals to fight the proposal, said they were “really pleased” with the outcome.
“Murchison Square is very small. It’s got roads on four sides … dogs could just run out [without any fencing]. It’s too dangerous,” she said, with the park being bordered by Murchison St, Canning St, Owen St, and Barrup St.
Ms Jennings said in addition to the park being registered with having heritage values, Murchison Square was also used by children and families as a picnic spot and would not be appropriate as an off-leash area.
She said their group, which included a heritage and architect consultant, as well as lawyers, urban planners, and health safety experts, believed the lack of community consultation was disappointing, with the plan not being well thought-out.
“They had apparently completed a survey across the inner suburbs, and they just stopped people in parks … there was no data about where people lived or whether they had dogs or whether they would use it [the proposed off-leash area].”
Residents of the group therefore conducted their own community consultation by door knocking 300 homes within a 200-metre radius of Murchison Square, Ms Jennings said.
In total, they spoke to 265 people with 93 per cent indicating their opposition to the Murchison Square proposal.
Ms Jennings, a dog owner, said it “was a terrific example of a community getting together”.
The council also decided to put the proposal on hold after hearing from residents at their June 7 meeting.
One resident had said not only was Murchison Square inappropriate as an off-leash area but questioned how the council would enforce the rules of “off-lead dogs running everywhere” as the park was surrounded by busy roads and frequented by cyclists and walkers.
But residents haven’t won their battle just yet with the council’s motion stating council management would now undertake 12 months of additional consultation “in determining whether Murchison Square should be designated as an off-leash timed access dog park”.
In addition, the council will provide a report to councillors in June 2023 which would make a recommendation on options for delivering a new dog park for Carlton. The council will also investigate potential alternative locations in Carlton for an off-leash timed access dog park. •
Caption: Residents are relieved that the proposal to use Murchison Square as an off-leash dog area have been put on hold.