A 12 month trial for an off-leash dog area in Bronte Park is set to commence next week.
Under the new arrangements, dog owners can walk their pets without a leash in a designated area of the park, located 70 metres from the children’s playground. The off-leash zone will operate from 3pm to 10am, with dogs still required to be on-leash on all park paths. Within this zone, dogs will be allowed on-leash outside these hours during the trial.
Liberal councillor Andrew Cusack said there was a lack of off-leash recreational areas in Waverley and it was important to ensure a healthy balance in the use of open space by residents and visitors to Bronte.
“We were working on making the timing a bit fairer for everyone…to increase the hours and give residents a bit more choice,” he said.
But Labor councillor Ingrid Strewe questioned whether having the zone at Bronte Park is appropriate.
“We’ve got eight other off-leash areas in Waverley…but if you make a major beach reserve a dog park everybody is going to want to bring their dogs there,” she said.
Currently, dogs are only allowed on-leash between Murray and Bayview streets, and on the coastal promenade within Bronte Park.
Ms Strewe argued introducing new fencing around the playground in Bronte Park would privilege dogs over children.
“They will fence the playground, whereas in fact it’s the children who need the roaming space, it’s the children we need to look after,” she said.
Bronte resident Fiona Matthews said the trial was “inviting a catastrophe”, raising concerns over the safety of children at Bronte Park who were placed at a greater risk of being attacked by a dog off-leash.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to hand it over to the dogs,” she said. “If children are attacked, Council is going to be culpable, so they need to think about that clearly.”
But Deputy Mayor Tony Kay said council will take additional measures to increase safety for the trial, and during the summer amid rising visitor numbers.
“[We will] make sure risks are mitigated by introducing extra [educational] signage throughout the park and gully, community education materials, new landscaping in the gully and low hedging around the playground, [together with] an increase in ranger patrols,” he said.
In October, off-leash arrangements were proposed for both Bronte Park and Raleigh Reserve in Dover Heights. The Bronte trial was initially approved for February 2014, but a spokesperson for Waverley Council said commencing in December meant having additional summer ranger resources available.
“We proposed staggering them as both of those trials would have needed a lot of ranger attention and staff preparation,” the spokesperson said. “However the recommendation on the Raleigh Reserve trial was not approved by council and isn’t going ahead in the same way. So, that gave us a window to have the Bronte trial start before Christmas.”
The trial will begin on December 16 with extra park rangers on duty. Existing arrangements will remain in place at Bronte Park until the new signs are erected.