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About 3 kms from Sydney’s CBD is a glorious emerald jewel called Sydney Park. If you live in the Inner West & own a dog you probably go there often because it is leash-free & offers an incredible amount of room for dogs to run themselves into happy exhaustion. There are even water bowls for dogs to have a pit-stop drink. I knew of Sydney Park’s existence, though I had no idea just how wonderful this park is. My impression over the years was garnered by what I
could see as I drove along Sydney Park Road in St Peters – a lot of trees near the road, the old brickworks buildings & an enormous grass hill that I didn’t feel like climbing. Then I read an article in the Inner West Courier in 2009 about the killing of a black swan by a dog. Black swan……in Sydney? This enormously sad news item & the subsequent letters from the community was the prompt I needed to finally visit.
That first visit in 2010 is something I will not forget. We stood at the bottom of the park at the Harber Street entrance & surveyed an enormous park with multiple lakes, masses of normal-shaped large trees, patches of woodland & birds everywhere. We were hooked. How had this wonderful place been unknown to us for so many years? If you haven’t been, you must go at least once. I doubt it will be your last visit.
Okay there are hills, but most are easily walked. Many people run up them. Wide bitumen footpaths meander through the park. If a hill seems too much for today you can easily head in another direction. The bulk of the park is wheelchair accessible though better if you have someone who can help you up those hills if needed. Prams are a cinch. There is an ‘all-abilities’ playground, accessible toilets & a kiosk, though I haven’t seen these yet.
The 44-hectares of Sydney Park is less than 20-years-old & was built on a former clay extraction & waste disposal site. It is a prime example of how industrial & landfill land can be turned into something beautiful. It was created by the City of Sydney Council who continue to manage it. They not only have created something that is beautiful & entirely useful for the current population, but everything they are doing is creating something for our children’s children & beyond. I don’t know how many Fig trees the City of Sydney Council have planted, but I’d guess at least 200 trees. I’ll have to find out. The Figs are planted reasonably close to each other to create a continuous canopy when grown & to provide shade. They are all young, but in 2-3 decades time, these Fig trees are going to provide phenomenal beauty. Just imagine how lovely this park will look in 100-years time.
Sydney Park has tree precincts. There is the Palm area, the Grevillea woodland, the Tea tree & Callistemon woodland, the Eucalypt woodland, the Casuarinas woodland, the Acacia woodland & so on. We have not seen all the park as yet so there is bound to be more woodland areas. Trees within the park are used to great effect to screen neighbouring factories & surrounding roads. There is no philosophy of maintaining sightlines into this park. Sydney Park is an oasis & provides refuge from busy city living. As much as possible, the noise of busy Princes Highway & surrounding main roads has been kept out, both visually & audibly.
Not only is it a place of beauty, but Sydney Park also functions as a stormwater collection & filtration site. Stormwater from surrounding suburbs comes to a large holding pool where it is filtered & sent on to the first of 5 fairly large lakes. From there it is filtered into the next lake & so on, until it finally filters through the ground into the watertable. The lakes provide 5-star habitat for a wide range of water birds, including migrating birds & Spoonbills.
There are birds everywhere in Sydney Park & they are both wary & curious of people which means you can have a good look at them, but not touch. City of Sydney Council has almost completed fencing the lakes to prevent another dog attack. Wooden poles attached to the cyclone fencing have made the fences look beautiful & a part of the landscape as well as being functional. This is just one example of how artistic, but functional design has been used in Sydney Park. Nothing here is ordinary in my opinion. Everything has been done with beauty in mind & to provide food & habitat to urban wildlife.
There are a number of swales that take stormwater from the park itself into the lakes. We last visited while it was raining & it was easy to see the design that had been implemented to capture runoff down the hills. Much had been directed into woodland & garden areas & the remainder channeled to meet up with bio-swales that took the water to the lakes. To prevent soil erosion, great long snakes of coir encased in rope were laid around garden beds or in front of vulnerable trees. Some of the pathways are permeable.
While there are areas of lawn for informal ball games, City of Sydney Council have not created yet another park that is essentially paths & lawn surrounded by trees around the periphery & a few along pathways. They have recognized that people want & need shade & desire areas to sit where they can be in the shade. There is not a Crepe myrtle to be seen. They have planted a range of bird-attracting trees & shrubs making this park useful to urban wildlife & there are many areas where it is difficult for people to enter allowing wildlife to have safe habitat.
Much of what has been done in Sydney Park could also be done along the Cooks River. If it were, it’s likely that a greater range of water birds would live along the river. Poles have even been sunk upright into one of the lakes to allow birds to perch as well as making an artistic statement for humans. Trees have side branches offering other places to perch. Few plants are ornamental only. While there are grasses around the lakes, grasses are not the main feature of any planting. Even groundcover is of the type that produces food for small birds. There is loads of colour from flowering trees & shrubs & this will change seasonally. The ground is healthy as there were a range of gorgeous mushrooms & toadstools growing after the rain.
I am in love with Sydney Park. It would have been expensive for City of Sydney Council to create, but this is money well spent & the park is going to only get better as it matures.
There are other features, such as a memorial woodland, that I will post about later. Sydney Park is a prototype of a people-friendly, dog-friendly, wildlife-friendly green space that is not ordinary in any sense & that will only improve as the decades pass. City of Sydney Council have probably won awards for Sydney Park. If they haven’t as yet, then they should. They deserve it.
I have posted a short YouTube video – Birds at Sydney Park Wetlands & will upload more videos of various aspects of this park later – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsHvuGPBjk4