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About the issue

In 2022, we heard from some community members that the John August Reserve off-lead area for dogs could be safer. Some dog owners were concerned that dogs could run out onto the nearby Mont Albert Road.

We assessed the conditions, use and history of John August Reserve to understand how we could help make this area safer for dog owners, their pets and other park users. There were no reported incidents of dogs running from the park onto the road, however we did find some challenges with this site, including the existing slopes of the park and narrow street frontages.

Most of the park is bordered by residential fencing, and there is chicane fencing at the Weir Street entrance. If we install continuous fencing and a gate to the park boundary near Mont Albert Road, the park would become enclosed. Our research into other enclosed parks shows there are possible negative, unintended impacts of enclosing the reserve.

These can include:

  • the enclosure of a space can lead to some owners being less attentive to their dogs and the dogs not being under effective voice or hand control
  • more people may travel to use the park as a dog park, adding pressure between different park users in the shared space
  • enclosed reserves are likely to attract professional dog walkers.

To ensure the enjoyment of all park users, owners must have effective voice or hand control of their dogs. There have been 2 dog incidents in the past 2 years at John August Reserve, and we do not want to increase the chances of this number growing.

Based on our assessment of the possible negative effects of enclosing the park and the site’s challenges, we have not proposed to enclose the Mont Albert Road entrance to this park.

Community consultation

From 29 November to 18 December 2022, we asked for feedback from you on:

  • whether you supported the set of proposed improvements to John August Reserve
  • what you saw as the advantages and/or disadvantages of the proposed upgrades.

We thank everyone who took the time to consider the safety issues raised and share their feedback on the proposed improvements to the park.

Who we heard from

We received 110 responses on this matter. This includes completed surveys, and submissions by email, phone and letter. The feedback we received came from nearby residents in Balwyn, Surrey Hills and Canterbury, with age groups ranging from 25 to 84 years old.

Most people who provided feedback through our survey said they live very close to the park (73%). We heard from people who use the park for a range of activities, including:

  • walking their dog through the park (70%)
  • sitting or relaxing in the park (55%)
  • exercising, walking, running, or riding in the park (45%)
  • visiting the playground (40%)
  • walking or riding through the park to get to where they’re going (38%)
  • other reasons (9%).

Those who completed our survey could select from this list multiple activities that they participate in, which is why the total percentage of responses is above 100%.

What you told us

Of the 110 survey responses and submissions we received during community consultation:

  • 60% supported the set of proposed improvements
  • 28% did not support the set of proposed improvements
  • 12% weren’t sure if they supported the set of proposed improvements.

The advantages of the proposed upgrades that people saw included:

  • safety will be improved for both dogs and children
  • the appearance and landscaping near the Mont Albert Road entry will be improved
  • there will still be easy access to the park
  • people can be less concerned about the safety of their off-lead dogs near the Mont Albert Road end of the park.

The disadvantages of the proposed upgrades that people saw included:

  • the proposed changes not fully addressing the risk to dogs. This feedback was often accompanied by the suggestion that a secure fence with a gate should be built at the Mont Albert Road entrance. However, an enclosed fence across the Mont Albert Road entrance is not an option being considered due to the negative unintended impacts if this park was to be fully enclosed.
  • the lack of benefit from the proposed changes for passive park users who don’t own a dog, and the idea that increased safety and, as a result, the potentially increased off-lead dogs in the park might make passive park users feel unsafe or unwelcome in this area.

Some people also suggested different changes to the proposed improvements or suggested general improvements to the park, such as:

  • fencing the playground area
  • making other park improvements like more seating, landscaping and pathways, and improving drainage.

One suggestion was to fence the playground area in the park. The playground closest to Weir Street is already partially fenced. Due to the site slopes, the addition of an entry gate from the path to complete the fence is not possible due to encroachment onto the mulch surface. This mulch surface forms part of the Australian safety standards (the play equipment fall zone), which could present a hazard if children were to fall from the equipment onto the gate or fencing. We also aim to encourage play with the ability for children to run and interact with surrounding open space and the playground.

Quotes from the community

  • "Glad it won’t be fully enclosed. The dogs at the fully enclosed dog park near the sports centre are crazy. These changes are pretty harmless and may help."

  • "My dog ran onto Mont Albert Road once and was nearly hit by a car. This proposal would have stopped that occurring. Will reduce the risk for dogs and cars on Mont Albert Road."

  • "[The proposal is] one-sided to address concerns of dog owners. There is other side where people who are scared of dogs are not able to fully utilise this park space."

  • "A concern is the accessibility to the park for people who are trying to ride bikes through the park."

What we will deliver

We have carefully reviewed and considered all the community feedback received during consultation.

Based on the level of community support for the proposed improvements, we will go ahead with the improvements. We have developed a final design, which aims to:

  • make the park safer for everyone
  • balance the needs and enjoyment of all park users including dog owners, families and children who use the playground, and people who relax or exercise in the park
  • reduce risk of dogs running onto the nearby Mont Albert Road, through implementing design solutions provided by an expert consultant that specialises in dog behaviour
  • refresh and improve the look of the Mont Albert Road entrance through greenery and new plantings.

Features of the final design

The final design for the park improvements includes the following aspects of the concept design, as well as some aspects that were prompted by community feedback.

  • New chicane entryway

    This new entryway will:

    • provide a safe and accessible entrance to the park for people on bikes, people with prams, people with wheelchairs, and people walking their dog
    • reduce the open area and deter dogs and children running onto Mont Albert Road.
  • New garden beds

    These garden beds will have rocks, logs and hoop fencing to act as a barrier between the park and road. This will slow dogs down, as they stop and sniff the different elements of the garden. We will use a mix of native and water-tolerant plant species in the garden beds.

  • Improved signage and more monitoring

    Across Boroondara, responsible pet ownership is always required in all public areas, for everyone’s safety. To make sure this is clear:

    • we will improve our standard signage at the reserve to make sure park users know what they need to do if they bring dogs to the shared off-lead space
    • our officers will also monitor the area more to educate dog owners about responsible pet ownership.
  • New chain mesh vehicle gate

    This new gate will replace the current maintenance vehicle entry gate, which will reduce the open area and deter dogs and children running onto Mont Albert Road.

  • Pavement upgrades

    The pavement will be improved to meet the needs of pedestrians and maintenance vehicles.

  • Improvements to drainage

    The improvements to underground drainage at the Mont Albert Road entrance near the upgraded pavement will direct water away from this path.

  • Additional seating near playgrounds

    The additional seating will be located between the 2 playgrounds to provide better views across both playgrounds for carers of children.

  • Additional picnic table

    The additional picnic table with seating will be added on the east hill away from the playground to provide more opportunities for people to sit, gather and play with their dogs in this area. This will encourage more separation between different park users. We will also plant 2 new trees in this area to provide shade.

  • New and upgraded drinking fountains

    The existing standard drinking fountain near the playground will be upgraded, and we will also upgrade the drinking fountain near the northern east hill section of the reserve to a drinking fountain with a dog bowl.

Southern entrance improvements

All design elements shown are subject to a final budget review, authority approvals and site conditions.

Select the hotspots in the maps below to view proposed improvements to the southern entrance of John August Reserve. Images used are examples only.

Overview map

A map of John August Reserve showing changes to the southern entrance

Detailed map

A map of the southern entrance of John August Reserve

Artist's impression of the proposed improvements

Artist's impression of the proposed improvements at John August Reserve

What happens next

We expect to begin construction works to install these improvements in May 2023, depending on contractor availability. Works are estimated to take about 3 weeks to complete (weather permitting).

During the works, pedestrian access into and through the park will be maintained as much as possible. While we install the new pavement at the Mont Albert Road entrance, access into the park from this entrance will be available across the grass.