Canberra’s 31 dryland ovals may soon be given new life, with the government promising to consult with local communities on what they want to see the spaces used for.
According to ACT Green’s MLA Jo Clay, options could include using the space for a beginner BMX track, micro-forests, nature playgrounds, enclosed areas without a leash or common gardens.
Dryland ovals are open spaces that allow for informal activities such as walking the dog, exercising or completing a fitness session or just letting the kids run around. But because they are not watered, they can not be used for organized sporting events, and during drought or dry years they can look brown.
In those years, they can often be underutilized and seem unattractive to the public, Clay said.
She put forward a proposal that called on the government to ask local communities what they want to see done with these spaces. She told the ACT Legislative Assembly that many of these ovals were once watered, but this became unsustainable and too expensive during the millennium drought.
Despite the rain this year, Clay said it is important for Canberra to still be careful with its water consumption and she is not asking that they be watered now.
“We need responsible long-term planning that preserves our local green spaces and gives the community a real voice in how they are used.”
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Ms. Clay noted a wide range of other activities they can be used for.
She pointed to the work of the Florey Community Action Group, which has been working with the government for several years to develop a “brighter future” for their oval.
Group member Greg Blood described the Florey Oval as a “wasted community asset”.
“It’s in the center of the suburbs and could be part of a community hub, but it’s not being used by the community,” Mr Blood said.
He said society wants to use space productively, but that’s just not possible in the state it’s in.
Their plan is to turn one-third of the oval into a green area again and the other two-thirds into something else.
Sir. Blood said the oval could be used as a sort of “test case” for other dryland ovals around Canberra.
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Ms Clay’s proposal was adopted with a small amendment from Labor’s backer Suzanne Orr.
“Communities love their neighborhoods and they want to make them the best possible places to gather, train and play,” Clay said.
The final proposal called for a better public consultation of local communities on their dry ovals in the ACT Government’s forthcoming Open Space Management Plan.
Ms Clay said she expected “enthusiastic participation” from the wider community.
The government will also promote the Adopt-a-Park program, which provides grants to support community-led initiatives in urban open spaces such as micro-forests.
Reports will be submitted to the Assembly in 2023.