Dog owners protest proposed changes to off-leash areas at Anna Bay, Boat Harbor and Fishermans Bay | Port Stephens Examiner
Dog owners and Boat Harbor walkers have rallied together to protest proposed changes during a Port Stephens Council review regarding off-leash dog areas around the South Headland.
The board is reviewing all dog-leash off-leash points in Anna Bay, Boat Harbor and Fishermans Bay, having made a commitment around its use in November and December 2020.
The proposed changes for Boat Harbor include the adjustment of the designated non-lead area to the cleared and maintained portion of the Iluka Reserve; and only allow dogs on a leash on the rest of the southern promontory. Currently, dogs are allowed to roam the headland without a leash.
Council planning officer Paul Burton said one of the reasons for the proposed changes was to protect habitat for vulnerable and threatened species.
“The southern headland has many winding paths, rocky escarpments, and is home to native coastal plant communities. These features make it a popular location for birding, whale watching and walking. These features also make this headland less suitable as an off-leash dog area, ”he said.
“Off-leash areas for dogs require long lines of sight so owners can maintain eye contact with their dog, open spaces so dogs and people can maintain separation, and easy access to amenities like water. and the toilet. “
Mr Burton said the board based its recommendations on a comprehensive analysis that included community feedback, contributions from other government agencies and a review of best practice standards adopted by other boards.
Speaking on behalf of dog owners in and around Boat Harbor, Elizabeth Schiemer, a longtime resident, said that, as far as she can remember, the Iluka Preserve has been a community space important, where the people of Boat Harbor had given their time to watch. after and maintain it.
“The reserve has a long history of community use and the trails, which follow natural waterways, have been made safer for dog walking by residents and volunteers,” said Ms. Schiemer.
“Before 2000 residents had done extensive work to clean up the bitou area and for over 30 years the Port Stephens council had approved the area for walking dogs off leash. Then, a few years ago, the group members Port Stephens Community and Suicide Prevention Network made paths safer for dog walkers, spreading mulch over eroded natural waterways and trip hazards, removing weeds and litter .
“Council staff provided much needed help in improving the path to the cairn and they have become very popular with off-leash dog owners. “
Some of the dog owners unhappy with the proposal have been walking the promontory for 50 years or more, saying there have never been any problems. They say local dog walkers are “very responsible and clean up after their dogs.”
Ms Schiemer said if the proposal goes ahead, dog owners walking a dog on a leash over rough terrain would pose a danger to the elderly and the less able.
“These paths are used by people for stimulating exercise and restorative, mindful meditative walks. I am concerned that older people cannot walk their dogs off leash.”
She said the closest off-leash dog area at Anna Bay was over 2 miles away and very difficult for some owners to reach.
“The residents have worked so hard to ensure that the walking trails are safe for health and well-being and our companion dogs are an important part of a healthy lifestyle and need the freedom to off-leash exercise and swim in the nearby rock pools. For many, depriving us of our freedom to walk safely on the only bush trail we have is very painful. “
The review includes Birubi Beach, Anna Bay: between May and September, allow dogs off leash at any time (no time restrictions); and between October and April, allow dogs off leash between 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m. Dogs are allowed on a leash at all times, but no closer than 100m to the beach patrol area. And Boat Harbor Beach: to allow dogs on a leash to walk along the beach to access the headlands between 5 p.m. and 9 a.m. with dogs prohibited at all other times.
Mr Burton said council would bring the proposal to the community for comment before going to council “to ensure the process is fair and transparent and to help our elected councilors make informed decisions.”
Our journalists work hard to provide local and up-to-date news to the community. Here’s how to access our trusted content: