This is what you see when you enter Whiddon Reserve. Here the Cooks River is essentially a concrete channel.

This is what you see when you enter Whiddon Reserve. Here the Cooks River is essentially a concrete channel – nothing lovely or inspiring about this.  Thankfully, this is all about to change.

Last Sunday we went to the Community Information Day held by Sydney Water at Whiddon Reserve Croyden Park.

The first site where naturalization will occur is here, upstream from the Second Avenue Bridge.  Work will start late July 2013.

Work will commence at the second site at Flockharrt Park to Beamish Street Campsie late 2013.  Work for the third site at Haynes Reserve Canterbury outside Cup & Saucer Creek Wetlands will start early next year & expected to be finished by June 2014.

At the Whiddon Reserve site, both sides of the river will be naturalised. Currently the river here is a steep concrete channel with parkland on either side.  All the concrete will be removed & the bank on the south side lowered considerably & stabilized with sandstone blocks.  The bank will be planted with sedges & reeds that will filter the water as well as provide habitat & food for all kinds of wildlife.

The northern bank will remain steep to prevent flooding into nearby homes & to allow the mature trees to be retained.

The fence will be removed & the area planted with trees, plus an understorey of indigenous plants.  There will be a compressed clay & gravel walking path with seating at places to take in the view.

Sydney Water says changing the banks will not place this area at risk when it floods as the banks will be able to withstand extreme weather conditions, including flooding.  They also say they will regularly remove any plastic bottles or other rubbish that gets caught in the naturalised banks.

The staff at the Community Information Day were very helpful & answered my myriad questions.  As usual it was on the way home that I realized I didn’t understand what wildlife could be using this concrete drain that had very little water in it & this was a question I should have asked.  The literature mentions turtles so they must be there.  For other kinds of wildlife it may be a case of build it & they will come.  It will be very interesting to observe what wildlife uses this area in 12-months time.

To stand at the fence & look at the concrete drain that is the river here, it is not hard to see why the site was chosen or just how great this park will become once the work has been completed.  Some trees will have to be removed because they will be changing the whole slope, but the plans show many more trees will be planted.

Aside from the obvious benefits to wildlife, there are considerable benefits for people too.  The river will become beautiful here, which will have a positive on the local community, including their happiness levels if they use the place.  The work will also have a positive impact on property values.  One block of housing looks onto the river.   This group will be cheering at their outlook in 6-12 months time.  I imagine the park will become a popular place to spend relaxation time.

This naturalisation work on the river gives me hope that one day all the concrete & metal edging will be removed & the river healed.  This is truly a project that is providing real & usable habitat for wildlife, as well as leaving something special for future generations.   Sydney Water is doing something excellent here & I hope the naturalisation of the Cooks River is an ongoing project.

Showing the Cooks River from Second Avenue Bridge. This is where naturalisation of the river will start.  At the top of the grassed area is a housing development. These residents are going to have their outlook improve dramatically.

Showing the Cooks River from Second Avenue Bridge. This is where naturalisation of the river will start. At the top of the grassed area is a housing development. These residents are going to have their outlook improve dramatically.

Looking upstream. All this will be depaved & the banks naturalised. I think it will look beautiful once completed.

Looking upstream at the south bank of the river. All this will be depaved & the banks naturalised as per the photo below. I think it will look beautiful once  completed.

Showing what will happen to the south bank of the river at Whiddon Reserve.  It is incredibily different from the concrete channel that it is right ow.

Showing what will happen to the south bank of the river at Whiddon Reserve. It is incredibily different from the concrete channel that it is right now.

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