By Mitchell Clarke
Mount Cannibal Flora and Fauna Reserve is closed to the public as of Friday 3 April, Cardinia Shire Council has confirmed.
The popular walking trail at Garfield North joined Emerald Lake Park as the latest council sites to close due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
The council’s announcement followed claims that large crowds of people were failing to adhere to social distancing rules at Mount Cannibal.
As per Stage 3 restrictions, exercise remains one of four reasons for Victorians to leave their homes.
“You can still visit most parks and recreation reserves across the shire to use their open space areas for exercise and fresh air,” the council said.
“However, you are not permitted to use most facilities and equipment in these areas, in line with government guidelines to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading coronavirus.”
Playgrounds, skate parks, BBQs, picnic areas and outdoor gym equipment are all off limits.
The closure has proved contentious, rattling regular users of the park, who believe the majority of exercisers are adhering to social distancing rules.
Pakenham resident John, surname withheld, has been walking the trail every second day for a couple of weeks.
“It’s true that some people don’t keep the distance, but they’re in a minority, most people do keep the distance and of the people that aren’t keeping distance, they could be family members or live in the same house,” John said.
“There needs to be a bit more rigour around the accusation that Mount Cannibal is a health hazard. There were lots of cars in the carpark but that’s not a reason to close the walk.”
John believes that the council should implement warning signs outlining social distancing requirements before closing the park completely.
“There’s a health benefit by walking the track, and is that being nullified by the fact that some people have been complaining,” he questioned.
“I’ve observed people who are walking together, but most people are keeping that distance, so why should it close the minority of people doing the wrong thing.”
Cardinia Shire Council’s infrastructure and environment general manager Peter Benazic said the council understood the community was disappointed.
“These are very popular areas that attract many people and are prone to gatherings, and when we also take into consideration the narrow tracks, we’ve made the difficult decision to close both reserves for the time,” Mr Benazic said.
“This decision was not made lightly and, whilst regrettable, is a necessary temporary measure to help ensure the health and safety of our community during this pandemic.
“Many other parks and trails across the shire remain open for exercise, but we ask all community members to please ensure you adhere to gathering and social distancing rules.”