Inner West Independent

Unlock the gates: resident petition disputes parks kept under lock over lockdown

Campbell Oval and Blick Oval are fenced off from public use except for bookings. A local resident called it an alarming use of community assets during lockdown, and started a petition to open them. Photo: Justin Ly.

By EVA BAXTER

An Ashbury resident’s petition questioned the council practice of keeping large open spaces such as athletic fields and ovals locked behind fences over the course of Sydney’s lockdown.

Local resident Luke Buckle started the petition 4 weeks ago asking Canterbury-Bankstown Council to “open up our locked down spaces, Campbell Oval and Blick Oval.”

Luke told the Independent despite the fact that the ovals are always locked and only opened if booked, it wasn’t until lockdown that he realised how much wasted space there is.

“We have been locked in houses only allowed to exercise within five kilometres.

“We’ve got two ovals right behind our houses. It’s really alarming that they think that’s a great way to handle the community and public assets,” said Luke.

Luke wrote in his petition that Lees Park, Pratten Park, Marrickville Park and Petersham Park “all cope with being open at night and some parks are even lit up late for exercise. Why not our local ovals?”

“These are public spaces restricted to a few booked sporting groups, at a time when most sports are cancelled and the health and wellbeing of our community are at great risk.”

A spokesperson for Canterbury-Bankstown Council called Luke’s petition “unnecessary,” “as Blick and Campbell Ovals were closed because of the health orders prohibiting community sport.”

“Some of our top facilities, including Blick and Campbell Ovals, as well as others like Belmore Oval, the Crest Sporting Complex, and Jensen Park are kept locked when not in use.”

“This is to ensure the facilities remain in optimum shape for their hirers, which use the grounds for amateur and professional training and competitions,” the spokesperson said.

Security issue

In correspondence with Canterbury-Bankstown Council Luke was told that the police requested Blick Oval be fenced years ago due to anti-social behaviour, and the security issue and vandalism potential.

Luke was told Campbell Oval has special athletic equiptment and facilities, which they can’t risk the public having access to.

“I find both reasons completely inadequate,” Luke said, “many other parks are open 24 hours and there are other security measures put in place.”

He said those particular facilities should be protected, not the entire park.

“It’s been many years since people in this area were a threat to our own facilities and I think it needs to be looked at,” said Luke.

The petition asked for the opening of the parks to be trialled during lockdown, with a view to being open beyond COVID restrictions.

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