We trust all our Friends had a nice Easter with the start of the school holidays, Easter and the commencement of Aussie Rules football season more-or-less in alignment.
Our Park Usage
Many diverse groups and individuals use our park. For example, on the last day of school before the Easter and term break, one school used the park for a cross-country run at about 11:00. The very next day (Good Friday morning), one of our Friends (Nicola) took this candid shot of a group of artists painting in Blacks Walk (with their permission):
The week before, the SES undertook some training in the park and a yoga group conducted a walk, yoga and meditation activity…
We took a quick survey of park usage a few weeks ago. The results for part of the study below show counts for a one hour period at various locations and times of day in March. These show just how popular the park can be with walkers, joggers, cyclists and dog-walkers.
Although the study was not exhaustive, it does give some insights into park usage – for example:
dogs-off-lead are more of a problem at different times (eg early and mid morning)
cyclists are more common early in the morning or in the evening – presumably as people are cycling to/from work or school.
Bob, one of our Friends, occasionally visits our monthly committee meetings (by the way, everyone is very welcome!). He raised the problem that many of our park benches are too low for the comfort of our older park users. After all, they are the most likely people to use them! We know Council’s new replacement seats are much better – but we will nevertheless raise the matter with Council. Please feel free to refer any other park issues you might have to us – after all, our primary role is to advise the Council on park matters.
As the demand for both active and passive recreation in our park increases, we have a limited resource under increasing demand. We will all need to “do the right thing” and share with other park users.
In an interesting article in the March 19th edition of the Whitehorse Leader “Vendors’ Big Score”, Whitehorse residents were said to have enjoyed the second highest windfall (profits) out of all Melbourne suburbs following sales of $300M in only three months. A local real estate agent attributed the success to “our beautiful parks, leafy streets and transport” … “particularly from families wanting good schools”. It’s great to see that our parks are being recognised by the commercial world as adding value to local property – as well as adding to our quality of life as we all know.
Project Regeneration (1986-87)
In a clean-out at home, Jim, a committee member, rediscovered an interesting old map showing plans and plant lists for a major planting exercise in the Creeklands called “Project Regeneration” in 1986 & 1987. At that time, the Blackburn Creeklands had just been created (from 1983) – incorporating land linking the parks that was nearly sold off for development. See our Up the Creek page for details of the park campaign.
It’s interesting to see the old “tractor feed” sprocket holes in the large-size computer stationery and also the Kalang baseball diamond (top right corner of Kalang reserve) – both sure signs of a bygone era.
Although a little difficult to see in the full map above, the map shows 20 different numbered planting areas in the park – one of our earliest regeneration efforts after the park opened up. The snapshot below shows the numbered plots more clearly:
Geoff Lodge ran the project which was the first to use indigenous (ie belonging to the local area) plants in our park. The culmination of the project was a planting day in October, 1986 followed by a second day in September, 1987. Each zone had specific species pre-selected for its conditions and 1 or 2 supervisors were assigned to give volunteers initial training and then to supervise the planting.
These days, we think we are doing very well if 25 people participate in a community working bee. On the first day, about 300 people planted 3,000 plants – and, on the second, 200 people planted 2,000!
Geoff managed the relationship with Council’s park management and organized the area supervisors, volunteers (including locals and fellow students from Burnley Horticultural College), the logistics (including mulch and water availability), a backhoe to transport the mulch on the day – but also prepared the sites, sourced the seed and managed propagation of the seedlings in the preceding 12 months. All of the plants were propagated by Burnley students. Our picture below shows Geoff with some of the seedlings – threatening to take over his parents’ backyard:
Those days were huge successes and the most impressive thing is that Geoff was only 21 at the time! The project became the catalyst for the establishment of the Nunawading Indigenous Plant Nursery – now known as Bungalook Nursery – one of two community based nurseries we still use to source our plants!
These days, Geoff is based at Murchison in the state’s north, still growing indigenous seed (albeit on an industrial scale) and manages an indigenous seed bank providing seed for landscape restoration projects. Geoff is also CEO of a not-for-profit social enterprise engaged in community-based solar electricity projects.
Maintenance Group Report
Earlier in the past month, the team’s focus was areas north of the creek in Furness Park including weeding, mulching and a general clean-up.
Then the focus switched to areas south of the creek at the Laurel Grove bridge and moving eastwards into an area sometimes referred to as Thelma’s Maze. Our photo shows that work has started on preparing parts of the Maze for rejuvenation later in the planting period. The work included mulching (including topping up areas near the bridge), weeding and site preparations.
Geoff Lodge’s map (refer our earlier Project Regeneration article above) shows the Maze was clearly defined in 1986 – we believe Thelma started work in that area in the very late 1960s after the MMBW put a sewer main through the Maze area and left quite a mess. Thelma asked the MMBW for some replacement trees and, every year after, she would obtain permission to continue working in the maze area behind her house.
Over the years, which included long periods of drought, earlier plantings have senesced and the maze has lost much of its diversity and vibrancy. Site preparations have included weed treatments and thinning the Tree Violet Melicytus dentatus – formerly known as Hymenanthera dentata) which has tended to form a monoculture in parts of our park.
Plant of the Month
This month, Plant of the Month has been awarded to River Bottlebrush (Callistemon sieberior Melaleuca paludicola).
It is a shrub or small tree with flexible, often drooping branches with pinkish new growth and subtle cream or pale yellow (sometimes pink) flower spikes in summer. We were going to write that it is the only indigenous Callistemon (Bottlebrush) in the park – but DNA studies have led some botanists to call it a Melaleuca!
This indigenous plant occurs from the south east of Queensland, through New South Wales and to the eastern half of Victoria including our park. It likes damp and occasionally wet areas – so grows in and near creeks and rivers, in dry, rocky riverbeds and in channels subject to occasional inundation.
We are told that Aborigines sucked the nectar from the flowers. As the inset from our April 2017 web newsshows, local Sawfly larvae also feed on this plant – so much so, that some young plants in the vicinity have been stripped bare.
Weed of the Month
Weed of the Month is Desert Ash (Fraxinus angustifolia). It is a nuisance woody weed that comes to us from central/southern Europe, northwest Africa and southwest Asia.
Despite its common name, it tends to be a weed of waterways, riparian areas, wetlands, grasslands, open woodland, roadsides and disturbed sites. This goes a long way to explaining why it is such a nuisance in our park!
It is a fast-growing, medium-sized, deciduous and spreading tree growing to 20–30m tall with a trunk up to 1.5 m diameter. These days, it is recognised as a significant weed. Unfortunately, it was a popular garden and street tree and was widely cultivated in Australia.
It tends to out-compete indigenous plants for moisture, light and nutrients and likes to take over its preferred areas. Our photo shows one nuisance specimen in the road reserve near the park boundary with Laurel Grove North. Our maintenance team is continually pulling out its prolific offspring around the bridge and little wetland there. It also commonly occurs along the creek.
This month’s sightings were unfortunately focussed on introduced pests – foxes and domestic cats – the latter being allowed to roam and hunt in the park. Our photo shows a brazen fox in Blacks Walk – captured on a mobile phone at dusk lending our photo a sort-of muted watercolour effect.
Cats are not permitted in the Blackburn Creeklands at any time. In addition, Whitehorse Council introduced a cat curfew in October, 2010. All cats must be confined at home between 8:00PM and 6:00AM.
Events and Notices for Your Diaries
Watch out for our Autumn Bird Survey on Saturday, 14th April starting bright and early at 07:30 with our expert leaders Pat and Ian as usual. We meet at the Scout Hall in Pakenham Street – near Laburnum Primary School. There should be plenty of car parking available on the day. Please check our Bird Surveys page for more information.
If you have to miss our survey, Blackburn Lake Sanctuary’s “Breakfast with the Birds” will be one week later on 21st April – also starting at 07:30.