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Published December 17th 2016
An oasis of cool in summer
Entrance to the Frank Smith Park and Wetland - Dog Heaven
After living in Blackwood as a teenager, I thought that I knew my way around the area quite well. It turned out that I was wrong.
When leaving Watchman House recently (home of Coromandel Valley & Districts National Trust), I decided to wander on a whim and stumbled across the Frank Smith Park just around the corner. This secluded reserve is just off the Main Road but lacks signs to highlight its location. I had no inkling that it even existed.
My dogs were itching to explore this new dog heaven, having spotted another pooch in the distance. No sooner had I opened the car doors than they were off mixing it with the locals. The entrance to the reserve borders the Sturt River although a bridge across to Coromandel Valley Primary School was out of service that day. I quickly set off in pursuit of my couple of carefree canines cavorting past cricket practice nets.
We were eventually reunited in a shady pergola next to public toilets and a rudimentary playground. While I couldn't catch my younger dog, grass seeds brought her to a stop - she needed to groom her shaggy coat and feet after flying through the fields. The other (short haired) dog wasn't affected at all by the seeds, but was happy to loll in the shade.
People in the Frank Smith reserve assured me that this is a dog-friendly park, and that snake sightings are rare. They had just come from wetlands on the other side of the cricket oval, so the kids and I went to check it out. It was a beautiful warm day, and the dogs flew past rustling reed beds in the shade of huge trees. Before I knew it, Miss Millie had launched herself from the boardwalk into the shallow water of the wetlands. I'm not sure who was more surprised, as she normally hates getting wet.
On the Boardwalk - a Tranquil Pool in the Wetlands
We spent a lazy hour exploring the paths through the tranquil Frank Smith wetland, with only honking frogs, frisky little lizards and an occasional kookaburra for company. After a thorough grass seed grooming session for the longer haired dog, it was time to head for home.
Exploring the Dog Friendly Walking Trails in the Frank Smith Wetland
The following Sunday was going to be hot, so before 10am we set off for the Frank Smith Park wetland to enjoy the cooler part of the day. We expected to have the place to ourselves, but were quickly proved wrong. A crowd of canny Coro locals were wise to our caper, and had beaten us to this dog heaven. Of course, my dogs weren't displeased, there was just so much more to sniff!
After wandering the wetlands for a while, we thought we had seen it all. A chat with another of the locals uncovered another hidden secret - the Frank Smith dam, where ducks were diving to the delight of local kids. (Note - please don't feed the ducks bread, it's not good for them). Apparently young people used to swim here a couple of decades ago, but there was no sign of that while I was there. It's a pleasant place to relax as the temperature slowly rose.
The Frank Smith Reserve and wetland is a dog-friendly paradise for pooches, and the rest of the family will love it too. There's space to picnic, fun for kids in the playground, plenty of places to explore, and the cricket ground if you want to play a game. No wonder the locals have kept it to themselves.
At the other end of the reserve walking trails connect the park and wetlands to the Sturt River Linear Park in Coromandel Valley. If you live nearby it's a much more pleasant way to get around than driving, and still have the convenience of local shops and The Duck Inn.