Golf

Soccer pitch at former Belair Golf Course site failing to draw local support

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A plan to build soccer pitches on part of Australia’s second oldest national park is failing to get public support, despite it only occupying a fraction of the land formerly used for the Belair Golf Course.

The SA government revealed earlier this month its draft master plan for the south-west corner of the Belair National Park (BNP) site, where 51 hectares of land has been left in limbo since the golf course and country club function centre went into voluntary administration in early 2018.

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The government proposed to further develop the precinct’s existing mountain bike activity and walking trails, and build a seven-pitch soccer field and clubroom to be run by Sturt Lions Football Club.

The soccer pitch proposal has attracted plenty of opposition from respondents.

An overhead photo shows the extent of land covered by the former Belair Golf Course.(Website: Belair Precinct Masterplan)

“Principle One of the Master Plan is stated as: Protection and restoration of the natural environment and heritage. The inclusion of 10 hectares for soccer pitches goes very much against that.” — Steve

“Mountain bike trails seem like a good idea. Wildlife park with flora/fauna observation and education also seems like a good idea. Clearance and excavation of over 10 hectares of natural land seems bizarre and very much against everything a national park stands for.” — Anne

“I think the soccer plan is really inappropriate. I am pro-soccer and clubs but this just doesn’t fit at all with the park, the location, local area, aesthetics etc etc.” — Ande

“Seven pitch soccer club, surely not! Sorry, nothing personal, just not the right spot. The mountain bike and hiking trails would work perfectly in with bringing back the native bush — I strongly agree with this side of the proposal.” — Tim

“BNP was reserved for the people of South Australia and for conservation purposes. I feel that it erodes these purposes by having it used as soccer pitches for a specific club, indeed it goes directly against the original intent.” — Sharyn

The pitches would be built on 10 hectares of the most publicly accessible land — a former fairway adjacent to an arterial road.

BNP, which was established in 1841, already contains two cricket and football ovals inside its main boundary that are used regularly by sporting clubs and schools.

Stretches of green soccer fields at J-Village.
There has been strong opposition to the government’s soccer fields proposal so far.(Reuters: Issei Kato)

Hived off to raise money

The land was segregated from BNP for a nine-hole golf course during the Great Depression in 1934 to raise money for the maintenance of the remaining 835-hectare national park.

It was extended to 18 holes in 1941 and leased to the private sector along with a caravan park zone in the early 1980s.

The golf course dropped in popularity during the 2010s and shortly after the on-site golf shop closed.

A government survey of 2,200 people in 2018 found only 11 per cent wanted the golf course maintained as a public activity.

SA Environment Minister David Speirs said the Belair precinct was an important site for the local community “who have made it clear they want to see the site revitalised”.

He invited people to provide feedback on the project via the Government’s Get Involved website.

Belair Country Club
The 1990s country club would be demolished under the latest proposal.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Malcolm Sutton)

Support for soccer club

The draft plan’s other proposals, such as shared trails, mountain bike flow and jump trails, and low-impact sports like disc golf, received support from respondents, while the soccer fields netted a few positive comments.

“I note the plan suggests a reduction in the number of pitches, so maybe plan for three to the far right-hand side of the existing allocated area, where the high fencing is already in place along the road.” — Richard

“The proposal is well thought out and a great step for our community. The BNP is HUGE — we are talking about an already cleared ex-golf course that is going to weeds, that is adjacent to a populated road.” — Matt

“Looks fantastic, another disc golf course and more pitches are fantastic initiatives, a great use of park space.” — Sam

Country Club faces demolition

The master plan also proposed the demolition of the country club, although the smaller clubroom adjacent, where the original golf shop was located and where a popular mountain bike hire and maintenance shop now exists, would be retained and refurbished.

“It is now necessary to consult the community on its potential removal.”

Friends of BNP president Mark Pedlar said the master plan had some good ideas but was very short on detail.

“I don’t think it’s a master plan. I think it’s a discussion document,” he said.

“I really hope that a lot of members of the public get involved, because the park is an invaluable resource.”

Public feedback closes on May 5.

Galah's inhabit the old Belair golf course
Galahs inhabited the weed-infested former Belair Golf Course shortly after its closure.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Malcolm Sutton)

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