Yarra Park on a match day - a scandalous way to treat a heritage park
Yarra Park is part of the "emerald necklace" of parkland that surrounds inner Melbourne. It embodies the vision of Governor Charles La Trobe and planner Robert Hoddle for open space around the central city where the people of the new settlement could breathe and find rest and inspiration.
It is a large park of over 35 hectares (excluding sports grounds) around the MCG.
The park has two scarred trees - linking our age with the stewardship of the Wurundjeri people, who roamed this area for generations, time out of mind. There are many other old and significant trees.
Yarra Park is also important historically as the site where Australian Rules football originated, with the first recorded games being played here in 1858. Then known as Melbourne's "village green", Yarra Park contained the city's first recreation reserve.
It was here that the athletes of the world came for the Olympic Games in 1956, and for the Commonwealth Games in 2006.
For residents of East Melbourne and Jolimont, and of Richmond across Punt Road, Yarra Park is a place for recreation and reflection, for jogging, walking the dog, picnics, and just taking a quiet stroll.
It seems barely credible that anyone would take the crass decision to use this precious green space as somewhere to park cars for over 220 days a year - but that is the situation which has come about through a failure of leadership by successive governments. The park is used for parking by thousands of patrons visiting the MCG - even though there are good public transport alternatives all around. Parking thousands of cars on Yarra Park degrades this green space: it causes obvious damage to the lawns, and by compacting the soil is also killing the trees.
Is this the way we treat this historic legacy - as a cut price parking lot?
The Commonwealth Games were held at the MCG in 2006, and they were run without any parking on Yarra Park. Public transport was easily able to cope with the very high demand.
The community and the Melbourne City Council were working towards complete removal of parking from Yarra Park, but then in 2009 the Brumby government stymied them. Supported in parliament by the Liberal Party, Labor handed management of this park to the MCG Trust. This was done expressly to facilitate ongoing parking on Yarra Park. As the Minister's media release blandly put it:
The legislation also ensures adequate parking to support major events at the MCG.
The Greens opposed the move at every turn: the parks and gardens of Melbourne are the envy of the world.
This park belongs to the people of Melbourne and should not be handed to a private corporation like the MCG. Too much public space has been corporatized as it is.
It's fun going to the cricket or the footy at the MCG - how much better it would be, instead of dodging revving cars and picking our way past their churned up mud, to stroll through pleasant parkland to get there.
Since the government's decision, the Heritage Council has determined - over objection from the MCG and others - that Yarra Park is "of cultural heritage significance and should be included on the Heritage Register". The government ought to take note of this landmark decision. They should immediately remove the blight of parked cars from our heritage.
There is no justification for putting cars on the lawns and under the trees of Yarra Park. It should remain what it was always intended to be - a park for people, not for cars.