Make the 24-hour dog off-leash park at the former Lawson golf course bigger. That’s the request of more than 30 dog owners who packed the public gallery at Blue Mountains City Council in Katoomba last Tuesday.
Councillor Geordie Williamson asked the council for a report to look into doubling the area for a trial period of six months — until the future of the former golf course is decided. Currently dogs are allowed off leash on one quarter of the former nine-hole golf course. But even asking for a report on the issue caused considerable debate in the council chambers.
“We have a situation where pretty much half the Mountains households have a dog...[but] we have a paucity of places where dogs can be walked off leash, particularly in the Mid Mountains,” Clr Williamson said. He said part of the current area was next to a road, making it “a potentially dangerous space for dog exercise”.
But Liberal councillors, Chris Van der Kley and Brendan Christie, spoke against the report, saying they had concerns existing rights could torpedo future building plans.
“If we were to virtually double the site in the next financial year, it’s going to be very hard to say ‘No, you can’t, now it’s been established’,” Clr Van der Kley said.
And the deputy mayor Brendan Luchetti was also opposed to a report saying there was an opportunity to “sell some of the land”.
“I do not believe this is the appropriate time [for an extension]. We have a once-in-a-lifetime, a very rare opportunity of council to come into possession of a large piece of land in the Mid Mountains.
“It’s the opportunity for residential development, open space, recreation and dog off leash ... if we were to make the decision ... I see a few complications, you set up a situation of an existing use.”
Former mayor, Liberal councillor Daniel Myles, also voted against a report.
But when the Gazette caught up with dog owners on the course on Thursday morning, they couldn’t understand all the fuss at council.
Leigh Collins, convenor of the Blue Mountains Dog Club which has 400 members, said in an area surrounded by national park the course was a valuable resource and members knew it was all temporary.
He said the arguments against the report about an extension were “blatantly silly” and his group was also angry by the “arbitrary” log barriers installed by council “just a few days before our submission” was being considered at council.
“The area has always been characterised by goodwill and accord between dog walkers and other users.”
Clr Williamson estimated “95 per cent of users of the gold course are dog walkers”.
The Lawson Golf Course closed in April 2004. It is crown land but held in trust for recreational purposes to be managed by council.
A report in 2004 showed interest from numerous groups including bushcare groups and sporting clubs.
The vote eventually went the dog owners way to much applause in the gallery — four votes against and eight for.
The report is expected back on July 22.