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Lockdown use as public open space sees residents call for Melbourne golf course to be repurposed as parkland
Increased use of areas of green space in metropolitan Melbourne during the city’s Coronavirus lockdown over recent months has led to calls for the Northcote Public Golf Course to be permanently repurposed as parkland.
With Melbourne residents banned from travelling beyond a 5 kilometre radius of their homes and golf courses closed for play, people increased their use of open spaces during the limited time they were allowed outside for exercise.
Like many golf courses, the public began using the Northcote course, generally in the allowable groups of five.
As of July, City of Darebin Councillor Trent McCarthy negotiated an agreement between the Council and operator Leisure Management Services (LMS) to open the course to the public during lockdown restrictions - with a footbridge connecting the suburb of Brunswick to the course also opened.
As lockdown restrictions have eased, local residents have been calling for the nine-hole, 25-hectare course to be permanently repurposed as a public park.
A community group on Facebook, Reclaim Northcote Golf Course For Public Open Space, has been established canvassing a wide range of views for the area.
Explaining local sentiment, Councillor McCarthy told the Guardian Australia “I have met people who have been enjoying it during COVID who lived just a couple of streets away and who have never been inside until word started to spread about it during COVID, and a campaign gained momentum to repurpose the space.”
With the course technically closed to the public outside hours, McCarthy noted “Council is negotiating with LMS at the moment for a way to keep it open for both golfers and the public to use when restrictions ease, with a mix of golf hours and park hours.”
An analysis of green space conducted by Griffith and LaTrobe Universities found of the 42,199 residential mesh blocks (typically containing between 30 and 60 homes) under Stage Four restrictions, 3,500 had between zero and 4.5 kilometre² of parkland within 5 kilometres.
The researchers advised “this equates to about 135,000 homes or 340,000 people with little or no access to parks within their permitted area for exercising.”
Other golf courses have been used heavily by the public during lockdown, including Royal Park golf course located 3 kilometres from the city.
Advising that the course was not fenced off before COVID, and the public and golfers had always shared the space respectfully, Dr Wendy Walls a lecturer in landscape architectural design at the University of Melbourne, noted “Northcote has always been fenced and you’re not supposed to go on it and so it sets up a different precedent and pressure (compared with) other golf courses.
Local MP Kat Theophanous has proposed turning the Northcote Golf Course into a six-hole design, saying the move would give golfers certainty, create a significant new park and stop any chance of some of the land being developed for housing if the course was abandoned for golfing.
Theophanous said shortening the course while keeping the remaining six holes for golf "would avoid safety concerns" of an attempt to have golf on some days, and park use on others, as well as ensuring the fairways and greens were kept to a playable standard.
Image: Northcote Public Golf Course from the air. Credit: Leisure Management Services.
3rd December 2020 - Golf Australia adds inclusive events to its national schedule
25th November 2020 - Golf Australia reports boom in club membership
3rd November 2020 - Melbourne fitness facilities prepare for post-lockdown reopening
8th October 2020 - Melbourne Inner city councils welcome funding for integrated bike network
2nd October 2020 - City of Melbourne encourages social distancing by park users
1st October 2020 - Golf Australia reveals golf to be experiencing a pandemic-inspired boom
28th August 2020 - Construction set to start on Darebin Multi-Sports Stadium
8th July 2020 - Golf can play on through new Melbourne lockdown
17th April 2019 - Threatened Sydney Northern Beaches golf club secures new long term lease
20th February 2018 - 18-hole golf course to be retained at Melbourne’s Albert Park
2nd March 2014 - Burswood Park Golf Course sacrificed for new Perth Stadium
4th March 2009 - LMS Group looks to second year of BayFit success
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