Callan Park gone to the dogs as off-leash areas set to come into effect

Callan Park gone to the dogs as off-leash areas set to come into effect

June 27, 2022

Dogs will have unfettered access to about one-third of Callan Park in Sydney’s inner west under long-awaited plans to create dedicated off-leash areas at the waterfront park for the first time.

Faced with rising tensions between dog owners and other park users, the NSW government has decided owners can let their dogs run free on more than 20 hectares of the sprawling park including Callan Point Beach, the central green, Bonnyview cottage gardens and Wharf Road gardens.

Louisa Larkin said dog owners would be disappointed only part of Kirkbride Gardens would be off-leash: “The joy of roaming through the beautiful trees with our dogs off-leash is something we will definitely miss.”Credit:Oscar Colman

Dogs will be required to wear a leash around the historic Kirkbride complex and Bay Run path once the changes come into effect on July 1. Dog owners caught flouting the rules face fines of up to $330.

The plan dictating where dogs can and cannot go while off-leash ends years of debate and uncertainty over canine access at the park, which experienced a surge in popularity during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Callan Park Dog Lovers spokeswoman Louisa Larkin said: “To get 20 hectares designated as off-leash is a major plus for dog owners in the area, but it also allows people who don’t have dogs to enjoy the park.”

She said owners would be disappointed only part of the park’s Kirkbride gardens would be off-leash.

“The joy of roaming through the beautiful trees with our dogs off-leash is something we will definitely miss.”

Under the government’s plan, released on Monday, the park’s sporting fields will be timed off-leash areas, while derelict buildings will be demolished to accommodate a fenced, off-leash dog area near Balmain Road.

Cities Minister Rob Stokes said the final plan was the result of lengthy community consultation and would put an end to the uncertainty which had “dogged Callan Park for too long”.

Dogs will have to wear a leash in the rest of the park, and throughout the park every night from 10pm to 5am to protect native wildlife.

The designated on-leash areas come into effect on July 1.Credit:NSW government

The plan covers the 38 hectares of Callan Park controlled by the Greater Sydney Parklands Trust. It does not apply to the 22 hectares owned by NSW Health, where dogs must be on a leash at all times.

Residents will receive information pamphlets in their letterboxes and signs will be erected at the park to inform dog owners of the new restrictions.

Balmain Greens MP Jamie Parker said rangers would be patrolling the park, with an initial focus on educating dog owners about the new rules, rather than on fining people.

“I’m going to make sure this is not about revenue-raising because it needs to be about education, and supporting the community to share this space,” he said.

Murky rules for dog owners attracted renewed attention when the park, on the border of Rozelle and Lilyfield, came under the management of the Greater Sydney Parklands Trust.

Nearby residents have for years ignored rules that require dog owners to have their pets on a leash while walking them throughout the majority of the 60-hectare site.

But the trust’s reiteration of those rules prompted fears of a crackdown on pet owners, despite the Inner West Council’s insistence that it did not intend to enforce the off-leash dog bans.

The issue prompted Stokes, who was then planning and public spaces minister, to consult the community on a pet policy for the park, arguing residents needed clear rules.

Larkin said: “We’re very much hoping the rangers the Greater Sydney Parklands Trust brings in will be helpful and supportive in the initial phase because there’s going to be a lot of confusion.”

Friends of Callan Park president Hall Greenland was of the view the tensions between dog owners and other park users were exaggerated, but he was optimistic the plan would settle any animosity.

“It seems fair and balanced. It protects the park’s First Nations and heritage features, and the bushland protected areas, and it gives a fair go to the dogs.”

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