By Jed Lanyon
Yarra Ranges Council will release the draft master plan for Wesburn Park as community consultation and feedback for the project is sought.
The draft master plan aims to transform the underutilised recreation reserve into a community and nature-based tourism hub focused on active recreation and education and has attracted the interest of government agencies as a potential for future stimulus funding.
The draft master plan encompasses the construction of the Wesburn Education Play and Inclusion Centre, adjustments to sports fields, pedestrian and shared trails, missing link in the Little Yarra River Trail connecting to the Warburton Trail, outdoor education program classrooms, mountain bike skills and pump track facilities and improved equestrian facilities.
The park is currently home to the Upper Yarra Adult Riding Club, Upper Yarra Pony Club, Wesburn Junior Football Club, Yarra Junction Cricket Club, SES, Upper Yarra Gem and Prospecting Club and Yarra Ranges Mountain Bike Club.
District commissioner of the Upper Yarra Pony Club, Anita Prowse, spoke at the council meeting voicing concerns about the safety of horse riders.
“A lot of these trails that are being proposed are very close, too close actually, to our arenas and what we’re doing there,” she said. “Putting kids in an arena next to some bush with mountain bikes flying through is definitely not a safe environment for the kids.
“Unfortunately the shire seems to be already promoting mountain bikes at Wesburn Park with no mention of equestrian usage. There’s no signage, there’s no clear boundaries. No rules, no fencing, absolutely nothing as far as safety measures in place at all.
“We have, at club day and rally days, had mountain bikes ride through the car park terrifying the horses that are tied to a float.”
Ms Prowse described the situation as “a disaster waiting to happen”.
Yarra Ranges Council’s director of environment and infrastructure Mark Varmalis said Council had held direct meetings with both equestrian clubs currently utilising the facilities.
“The master plan does refer to it being acknowledged that there is a need to address the concerns being raised by Ms Prowse in relation to safety,” he said.
Councillor Jim Child said he was ‘a bit disappointed’ to see Ms Prowse oppose seeing the draft master plan go out for community consultation considering that the equestrian facilities would be included in the draft master plan.
He described the 30 hectare space of land as ‘magnificent’ and one that was used by many in the community.
“This is an exciting time where we can actually go out to those user groups and the public,” he said. “We want to hear more from the user groups and hear from the public as well for what we want to see for that asset we have at Wesburn.
“Yes the equestrian fraternity has had a great asset there for years, their license has just been renewed. There is no intention of the master plan withdrawing equestrian activities at Wesburn Park.”
Cr Child encouraged stakeholders to take a thorough look at the draft master plan.
“We need a better way to actually manage the facility there and this is what this master plan will do… This will give an amazing outcome for Wesburn Park into the future and for future generations.”
For more information on the draft master plan, including viewing plans and to provide feedback, visit https://www.yarraranges.vic.gov.au/Council/Engage-Yarra-Ranges/Wesburn-Park-Master-Plan.
Submissions close by 2 March.