A privately-owned dog park that opened to the public in Guildford in December is proving popular with pet owners in the Castlemaine area.
Mick Williams and Lisa Huxley, who own Hilltop Kennels and Cattery in Guildford, saw the need for a secure dog park in the area and set about constructing on on their property 12 months ago.
“A couple of customers suggested it would be handy and there is no facility (like it) in the Hepburn or Mount Alexander shires,” Mr Williams said. “We’re animal people, we saw the need and have got the property. So the glove fit for us. We put it all together and it is well and truly appreciated.”
Pet owners in the Castlemaine area were left with one less off-lead option for their dogs after Elsie Palmer Field in the Wesley Hill Recreation Reserve was declared a dog-free zone last week.
The decision came after Mount Alexander Shire Council received public health and safety concerns from local groups that included dogs not being under effective control, damage to the cricket pitch and residents not picking up after their dog.
A number of locations in Castlemaine have already been established as dog-free zones including Doug Powell Oval and its velodrome, Victory Park and the Castlemaine Botanical Gardens Playground.
Doug Powell Oval was established as a dog free zone following an incident involving a dog in December, 2017, where a cyclist was injured.
In the Mount Alexander Shire, dogs can be walked on lead in the Campbells Creek Community Park, Castlemaine Btanical Gardens, Castlemaine and Maldon CBDs.
Popular off-lead locations in Mount Alexander Shire include Baringhup Oval, Western Reserve, and the Sunken Oval near Castlemaine Botanical Gardens.
A Mount Alexander Shire spokesperson said the 2018/19 annual plan includes an action to find a safe and suitable site for the construction of an off-lead dog park in Campbells Creek.
Previous plans to establish an off-lead dog park in the Castlemaine Botanical Gardens were scrapped due to its proximity to a rare butterfly population.
“Council understands the community interest in providing a designated off-lead dog park so dogs can socialise in a secure area,” the spokesperson said.
“We are working with the Department of Land, Environment, Water and Planning to obtain the necessary approvals to progress plans for a dog park in the coming months.
“In the meantime there are many places for walking and exercising a dog off-lead, as long as the owner ensures their dog is under effective control at all times.”
The Hilltop Dog Park in Shicer Gully Road opened ahead of a planned dog park in Campbells Creek.
Mr Williams said he and Ms Huxley planned to build their dog park before council had established their plans and intentions to develop a Mount Alexander Shire dog park.
“We actually started construction of our dog park over 12 months ago,” he said. “Mount Alexander Shire’s plans hadn’t even arose, so it didn’t have anything to do with them.
“A lot of people want to get out to dog parks and if there are two parks, then it spreads the load. Variety is the spice of life, especially from dogs’ points of view. A new park means new things to see and sniff (for the dogs).”
Since opening, users of the Hilltop Dog Park have left donations as a way of saying thanks. The money will be used for maintenance and donated to dog rescue charities.
The City of Greater Bendigo has enjoyed a positive response from the community since opening two new dog parks in 2018.
Safe and healthy environments manager Caroline Grylls said the communities were enjoying the parks in Allingham Street, Kangaroo Flat, and Truscott Reserve in California Gully.
“We don’t track the usage but anecdotally, we can see they are really quite popular,” she said. “The community’s need was established when we did that community engagement as part of our Domestic Animal Management Plan.”
Ms Grylls said council is preparing a budget bid for a dog park in Heathcote after the need for one was highlighted with a petition.
“We are really thrilled the community has embraced dog parks as a meeting place and are pleased each (Bendigo) ward now has its own dog park,” she said.
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