By Jonty Ralphsmith
A Cranbourne North resident has raised concerns over the quality of his local Merinda Park.
David Short, who lives next door to the park, has taken it upon himself to conduct nightly clean-ups of the area.
Mr Short, a resident of seven years, walks a four-kilometre trail through the park nightly with a group of locals and has been disappointed by Casey City Council’s inaction on the overgrown grass, litter and shards of glass.
He says he is among a large handful of proactive locals who clean away the rubbish, spending up to 30 minutes per night caring for the park.
Residents say rubbish dumping is a longstanding issue that has not been properly addressed, with Mr Short highlighting that the problem manifests when others see abandoned garbage strewn through the grass and along the paths.
When visited by Cranbourne Star News, the park was littered with alcoholic cans, fast food packaging and shopping bags.
The litter creates a smell in the park which makes the area less appealing for families.
The issue comes as nearby Cardinia Shire Council warned against illegal dumping after residents in Pakenham noticed an increase in rubbish dumping.
“Council encourages residents to follow the hard waste process and only present acceptable items the weekend before their booked collection to ensure piles are not added to by others and are collected in a timely manner,” a spokesperson told Star News.
The overgrowth in Merinda Park has worsened in the last 12 months. Mr Short said the council attributed the issue to difficulties relating to contractors when he contacted them.
Multiple residents choose to mow the lawn around the fence of their dwelling, but the park is otherwise largely overgrown, leading park users to fear snakes, rats and foxes.
The council corroborated Mr Short’s explanation, and also pointed out the challenges caused by the inclement weather, but stated that Merinda Park is scheduled for mowing “over the next fortnight.”
“We understand that the presentation of a number of our open spaces, including Merinda Park, is disappointing and we want to assure our residents that we are doing everything possible to ensure that the long grass across our community is cut as soon as possible,” Daniel Dyson, Acting Manager of City Presentation, told Cranbourne Star News.
“This year Melbourne’s South East received higher than normal levels of rainfall throughout winter and spring. This resulted in rapid above-average grass growth and affected our mowing and maintenance schedule.
“Our contractors have also been experiencing significant delays in receiving new mowing equipment due to COVID-19 associated equipment supply chain issues, as well as challenges with labour supply, which has impacted the schedule further.
“We apologise for the inconvenience, and we are continuing to work with our contract partners to ensure our open spaces meet the needs and expectations of our community.”
Dog owners are reluctant to let their pets roam the park, with Mr Short telling Star News Group that a dog had suffered a cut after stepping on a shard of glass.
Among other concerns with the park, branches overhang the path in certain areas, trimmed branches lay on the grass and motorcyclists riding in the area are ripping up areas of the ground.
Jenny, another local, has lived in the area for over 20 years and said the park is in the worst state she has seen.
While acknowledging that electrical tape was sometimes placed around rubbish, Mr Short does not believe the mess has been properly addressed.
He has attempted to contact the council weekly but has so far been unsatisfied with their response.
When contacted for comment, the council said they had not received reports of dumped rubbish in Merinda Park.
“Our Litter Enforcement Team actively investigates reports of dumped rubbish, and residents are encouraged to report litter or dumped rubbish via our website,” Mr Dyson said.