The City of Sydney Council has done much to make Sydney Park a truly excellent park. From its history of being brick pits to a garbage landfill dump, it has been transformed into a sparkling jewel in the Inner West. Nothing is stagnant in this park. Every time I visit I see changes. There is always new growth & new trees planted. The council seems to plant trees all year round. New public art appears, as do extra features, extra seats & new areas of plant cultivation. It’s an ever-changing landscape that I know is much appreciated by those that frequent this park. I am not alone in thinking Sydney Park is special.
This will be a multiple set of posts because there is a lot I love about this park.
- The trees – Instead of the usual fare of trees around the periphery or in patterns or rows, trees are everywhere. While there are large expanses of lawn, it appears to me that the City of Sydney is planning for biodiversity & shade. There is no shortage of places to sit underneath a shady tree & you don’t need to be on top of each other to find this. This is helped by the size of the park – a whopping 44 hectares, but the landscape design has obviously made strong decisions to allow people to find spaces alone or with others. There is plenty of choice.
There is a huge variety of native trees, which produce food for wildlife. There are also hundreds of Fig trees, which when mature are going to look stupendous. Some were planted recently, while others were planted when the park was opened in 1991 or soon after.
Throughout the park are mini forests with thick understoreys that are filled with chattering birds. Casuarina are not the dominant tree & have been kept in one forest.
The two National Tree Day planting sites are developing well. It is really pleasing to see such large expanses transforming into forested areas when one has participated in the planting of these.
I love that there are trees outside the perimeter of the park, around the perimeter & also in areas all through the park. Trees are a major feature of this park & for me it is excellent to spend time in such a heavily treed park. There are some gorgeous trees in Sydney Park, even in the car park.
I also really like that the trees are so thick in the area opposite the roundabout that you cannot see into the park in this area. I am used to see-through parks, where you can see the cars where you are & cars at the opposite side of the park & hear them as well. Even at the edges of Sydney Park, there are areas where you can feel like you are away from roads & traffic. Peace is a big aspect of Sydney Park.
- The understorey – It is obvious that much planning has gone into creating an understorey to create viable habitat & improve biodiversity. Instead of what we see along the Cooks River where small groups of trees have been thinned out & the understorey removed to provide absolute visibility from one side to the other, the City of Sydney Council seems to be unafraid of areas where sightlines are poor. There are multiple shrubs, grasses & other plants growing under the many trees creating areas of thick, lush & viable habitat that must improve biodiversity by providing safe areas for wildlife.
People don’t appear to be afraid of these bushy areas either. I’ve seen many women walking alone or with a young child. People seem to respect these areas as well. I have never seen people destroying these areas of bush. That many areas are loosely fenced off may be helping by sending a subtle message to keep out. Areas of recent regeneration are more formally fenced off with signs explaining why. There is quite a bit of educational content in these signs as well.
- No graffiti & very little litter – I’ve long believed that if a place is beautiful, people will respect it & I think this is happening at Sydney Park. There is litter, but it is not obvious, nor is is much. Tree trunks have not been tagged, nor have other structures like buildings, seats or paths, as far as I have seen. I have not seen tree bark gouged out with people’s initials either, except on one very old Fig tree & this probably predates the formation of the park.
- The ponds – Central to Sydney Park is its pond system, which collects stormwater from the local areas, cleans it & creates a fresh water haven for waterbirds & other wildlife. Three ponds follow the slope of the land, while a fourth pond is tucked away in the lower corner surrounded by a circle of thick trees.
The stormwater harvesting system began in early 2013 & although already looking fabulous, is still a work in progress. Around 850-million litres of stormwater is captured & cleaned every year. A bio-retention system collects water & filters it through plant roots & soil before it enters the ponds. Water is also circulated to stop it going stagnant, creating a living vital space for wildlife.
The ponds themselves are beautiful creations & even more beautiful since the wetlands were added & planted last year. There are a number of cairns that might offer homes for insects & lizards, while big logs & wooden piers offer natural perches for waterbirds. The island has been left to grow wild, which is fantastic for the birds. Dead trees have been placed hanging over the water, again offering a natural place for waterbirds. Last week half a dozen little black cormorants were perched on one proving my point. There are areas of thick reeds for nesting & for eating.
I love the viewing stations that allow people to interact with friendly waterbirds who come for a look. I also love the new area where the water travels down the hill that has stepping stones allowing people to walk across the water. This area is lush with plants & is exceptionally beautiful.
- Water for birds – It’s not hard for a bird to have a drink in Sydney Park. As a result, there are lots of birds because it is a nice safe place to live. There are lots of water bubblers scattered around the park & they all have a bowl at the bottom, ostensibly for dogs to have a drink, but it is not unusual to see birds drinking from this bowl either. To me not having access to fresh water for birds in parks is cruel & goes against every attempt to improve local biodiversity. Councils can have statements & biodiversity policies, but if there is no fresh water available for wildlife in parks & along biodiversity corridors, then this is a token approach in my opinion. Every living beings needs to be able to have a drink, including birds, insects & lizards & they need better & more reliable access than stormwater drains & puddles.