Park future causes upset

Macedon Ranges council (Damjan Janevski). 322848_01

Zoe Moffatt

Macedon Ranges residents are speaking out against a council plan for Stanley Park, saying it inhibits public enjoyment of the park, which was the original intention.

The six-hectare forest, grassland and recreation park is located just off Mount Macedon Road at 15 Salisbury Road, and is co-managed by council and a community asset committee (CAA).

Council sought feedback on an infrastructure master plan until April 19. The plan proposed to provide a better balance of day tourism, local recreation and protection of vulnerable environmental features, which will include the stage removal of existing infrastructure.

This includes the existing play equipment, surrounding mowed grass and carpark, as the plan said they require replacement or renewal over time. Council said the areas would be rehabilitated within the footprint of existing, disturbed areas.

Council also noted the plan should be read in conjunction with an environmental management plan, prepared in May, 2023.

Mount Macedon resident Deborah Keniry said the park used to be enjoyed by many visitors, hosting family picnics, children’s birthday parties and more.

“Back in 1919, the Upper Macedon Progress Association recognised the community benefit of acquiring this land and raised … the finances to do this, declaring the park a place for public recreation,” she said.

“I see it as even more necessary for us today with our larger population, the decline in outdoor physical activity [and] a decline generally in the mental health and wellbeing of our communities.”

Macedon Ranges council itself recognised that the land was acquired by public subscription for the purposes of public recreation in its 2014 environment plan.

Ms Keniry said she feels council has lost all perspective on the original intention for Stanley Park.

“[It’s in a] miserable state [and has been] essentially relegated to ‘no go’ status with its no go signage, fenced off areas, long grass and fallen trees.

“This is the reality that I have had to watch with growing sadness over the past number of years.

“As a young family, 30 years ago, we enjoyed regular visits to this park … but as a grandmother looking for a walk and some play time for my four-year-old grandson, I don’t go near it.”

Ms Keniry said she understands the ecological perspective of wanting to preserve the land, but the six hectares of Stanley Park should be invested in the welfare of the community.

In the environment plan, council said there were opportunities to reconfigure the current uses of the developed areas to better manage public access and to reduce the attractiveness and overall time people are likely to spend at the site.

“[This will] limit the overall physical impact of people as a result of less site patronage,” council said in the environment plan.

The plan also shows where the now decommissioned, walking track, cricket pitch and tennis court used to be.

Council planning and environment director Rebecca Stockfeld said according to a Stanley Park management plan from 1976, the cricket pitch had “ceased to be used” and the tennis court was decommissioned in 2015 due to being unsightly and in need of repair.

“The walking track was decommissioned as an upgrade of the path would involve substantial removal of native vegetation to make the path safe and accessible,” she said.

“The Mount Macedon community is well served by a diverse range of open space opportunities in addition to Stanley Park.

“The area also has historic gardens and informal areas such as laneways and unmade road easements that provide for a greater open space experience across the town.”

Ms Stockfeld said council is currently working through the feedback, which will help to inform the final plan to be presented at a future council meeting.