Callan Park has been enjoyed by locals for years, but the rules of its use have been murky, especially in regard to off-leash dog areas. Greater Sydney Parklands who manage the park have released the final Companion Animal Management Plan in which 20 hectares of the park are off-leash, making Callan Park one of Sydney’s largest off-leash parks.
The win for the dogs come after 18 months of community consultation. Integral to the campaign has been local advocate and author Louisa Larkin who formed Callan Park Dog Lovers (CPDL) in 2020 when the NSW Dept of Planning made their Landscape Structure Plan for Callan Park public. Louisa said, “We spoke up for dog owners and they listened. We thank them for the ensuing community engagement program.”
“CPDL’s approach has always been that the park is large enough to cater to the needs of all park users. Given that the Inner West Council area has a high rate of dog
ownership, which increased considerably during the COVID pandemic, it was important for dog owners to be able to exercise and socialise their dogs off-leash over a sizeable area. This is not just for the dog’s wellbeing, but also for the owner’s mental and physical health too”, said Louisa.
Louisa’s dog Pickles, a beautiful Golden Retriever, became the mascot for the Callan Park Dog Lovers group. Pickles sadly passed away in July 2022 at twelve years of age. He served the Balmain/Rozelle dog-owning community by championing the campaign for off-leash areas in Callan Park and was so well known amongst the Inner West community, that hundreds turned up to his memorial. Pickles was also the inspiration for three of Louisa’s novels, which she writes as Louisa Bennet.
Jamie Parker, our local State MP was a big advocate during the campaign. Jamie said “This is an important first step to making sure all kinds of users of Callan Park have some clarity. It strikes a balance that allows all the wonderful, varied uses of Callan Park – everything from dog walking, kids play, rest and relaxation to co-exist.”
The final Companion Animal Management Plan is a good outcome for all park users. It demonstrates the power of community action and how a community consultation process has enabled both dog owners and non-dog owners to have their say.