Popular Carlton reserve set to become a dog park, but not all residents are happy 

Popular Carlton reserve set to become a dog park, but not all residents are happy 
Brendan Rees

Carlton residents have voiced concern over a controversial proposal to use a popular reserve as an off-leash dog park, arguing the green space’s tranquillity “will be threatened”. 

The City of Melbourne has endorsed plans for a timed off-leash dog park at Canning and Neill St Reserve, which would operate between 6pm to 8am in November to March, and between 5pm to 9am from April to October.

The dog park, which would be open to thousands of dog owners across the municipality, would see a drinking fountain with a dog bowl installed, as well as new fencing on the western end of the reserve, adjacent to Canning St.

Councillors unanimously voted in favour of the proposal at their June 6 Future Melbourne Committee meeting, after a council report found it was the most preferred site based on community feedback. 

The decision was made after the council initially proposed in June last year to use Murchison Square as a designated off-leash dog park, but the idea was quickly abandoned following fierce community opposition.



However, residents fear that the presence of dogs at the reserve would also not be suitable as the area provided a “relaxed friendly and supportive environment”.

“People walk, make friends, exercise, have picnics, hold neighbourhood street parties, practice Chinese Tai Chi, practice their guitars, and much more,” resident Clara Tuit said in her address to the council meeting.

“All of this will be threatened though if made over to a dog park. Yet the council report makes no mention of the significant dangers of unleashed dogs nor of the concerns raised in the feedback.”

Ms Tuit added the proposed dog park was “too small” and “not appropriate” because of its proximity to homes and schools, and where many cyclists travelled on Canning St.

“We’re frankly at a loss to understand why our reserve has been targeted for the dog park when it is so manifestly unsuitable for this,” she said, adding the plan also “threatens the park’s abundant bird life”.

Another resident, Max Robinson, also strongly opposed the plan, saying “its implementation would be a tragedy”.

“This tranquillity is central to the wellbeing of the community nearby. It is where newcomers first meet their neighbours, where chance encounters lead to firm and lasting friendships, where families meet and intermingle,” Mr Robinson said.

“Unrestrained dogs are always to some extent unpredictable, with issues of territoriality, aggression or defensive behaviour commonly arising. This places a need for constant vigilance on all nearby, eliminating the prospect of calmness.”

In response, the council’s environmental portfolio lead Cr Rohan Leppert acknowledged that off-leash dog park was “classically one of the most controversial things that a municipality has to deal with” but believed the proposal had considered the community’s views and was “the best outcome that we have before us”.

“There’s an interesting approach to parks and the proximity to parks across the municipality, and this is not an exception to that,” Cr Leppert said. 


This is an area where it’s deemed workable based on the precedents that have been set elsewhere in our understanding about how the local law can be enforced.


“I do think that whilst these concerns are very genuine and must be considered fully by council, I do think that it’s also possible to manage the conflicts and that the decision before us is one that enacts that really well understood will of the local community, notwithstanding that there’s always going to be significant dissent.”

Cr Leppert also emphasised “that this is not a proposal for a dog off leash area 24/7” and would be “clearly signposted” with local laws officers patrolling the park and issuing infringement notices to those breaking the rules. 

A council report noted a community survey found the Canning and Neill Street Reserve had the most positive support (63 per cent) as well as Lincoln Square North (68 per cent). Other proposed options included Macarthur Square and Murchison Square.

Last year, the council proposed new off-leash dog areas at the Kingsway and Moray St Reserve in Southbank, Point Park and Ron Barassi Snr Park in Docklands, and Eades Park in West Melbourne.

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