This morning I went to the Community Open Day celebrating the newly upgraded Alexandra Canal & other works beside Tempe Recreation Reserve.
The event was opened by an indigenous man who said the area was near enough to the meeting point of three indigenous tribes. After a short speech about the Cooks River, he welcomed us to Country.
Then representatives from Sydney Water & the contractor Total Earth Care each gave short talks explaining what they had done with the river bank. They appeared very happy with the outcome & so they should be. It looks excellent.
I asked how long the work on the banks should last & was told it will see us all out. I think it is wonderful that this restoration work will be long-lasting. I am used to seeing work all around the place last a decade if that.
I had other commitments, so was not able to stay for the full program. Unfortunately, I missed what promised to be a very interesting talk about the indigenous history of the area, plus actual exhibits. I also missed a talk & showing of a variety of animals & insects that Taronga Zoo brought to the park, though I did get to see a gorgeous echidna before their talk. It was very windy, so the echidna wanted to burrow in hay & get out of the wind, but I was lucky enough to get a photo of him.
So what is the restoration like & why all the fuss about a river/canal bank? Firstly, the lovely & significant Fig tree that was badly affected by erosion & had many roots submerged in brackish water every time the tide came in is now sitting pretty in thickly mulched soil as it should be. It is now one happy tree.
Had the erosion continued, it is highly likely we would have lost this tree. It has a beautiful bowl-shaped canopy that reaches all the way to the ground – something we don’t see much in this area anymore.
The area between this tree & another large old fig tree on the point has been made into a garden habitat area & lookout with signage that explains the work done, the ecological significance & also the history of this area. I think the signage is excellent, as it may change the culture of many who use this park by encouraging them to respect the park & the river.
I’ve noticed minimal vandalism & littering at Cup & Saucer Creek Wetland & also the bank restoration work in the same area – both major restoration works by Sydney Water. People read the signage & learn how important to the river & the wildlife this work is. The outcome has been negligible rubbish left behind & signs, structures, seating & re-vegetated areas have been mostly left alone & not destroyed or graffitied. I hope the same level of respect happens here in Tempe Recreation Reserve.
From the lookout area you can see right along the curve of the bank with all the new sandstone & slots that hold plants. It looks fabulous.
I had a chat with the contractor & was told that they used 1,742 slabs of sandstone to complete the work. Each slab was hand-cut into eight pieces. These were then laid to form the wall. Each slot in the wall was also hand-cut. To me this is a significant feat. Some of the slots create intertidal block pools – places for small fish, seaweeds, snails, shellfish & small crabs to live. Block pools have also been created above the tideline to cater for any future sea level rise.
When you look at the wall, each slab has its own unique markings. It’s quite attractive. The slope of the wall also allows birds to perch safely away from people. Crabs will benefit too.
The work is much more than saving a significant tree, restoring the bank & building a lookout area. Sydney Water has done re-vegetation work all the way to the bridge over the Alexandra Canal. They created curved garden habitat areas that swing around & encapsulate the fig trees, surrounding them with mulch & plants, therefore protecting them from people. I like this very much.
Many of the trees have repeatedly had bark gouged out by people of all ages intent on engraving their initials. This is a relatively new pastime, starting only a couple of years ago. I’ve seen kids standing at the tree using kitchen knives to cut into the trunk while adults looked on.
Damaging the bark is a very quick was to introduce disease into trees & can bring about their early death, so I am very pleased that the tree trunks are now protected by plantings all around them. The tree canopies are big enough to provide shade on the lawn areas outside of the garden areas, so picnicking people will still be able to access much needed shade.
A range of native plants have been planted & a good number too. It is not stingy planting. It looks good now, so will look terrific once grown.
The work makes this area look maintained & cared for, which also may change the culture of some who use this park for recreation. I imagine it will be harder to leave lots of garbage behind when it is obvious that a lot of work & money has gone into making this a beautiful place. Here is hoping anyway. It would be nice to be able to spend time in this park without feeling upset at the amount of garbage left around or blowing into the river.
All the fences along the canal have been replaced & they are attractive to look at. Fences are needed here to keep people safe because the bank is steep & the drop is dangerous. Fences will also stop people from driving their car to the bank & launching their speedboats into the river at this location.
All in all, Sydney Water & contractor Total Earth Care should feel proud of what they achieved. The community has benefited by this major improvement to our park & the wildlife now have additions that will help improve their life.
Beauty always lifts the spirit, so this work will make people feel happier after time spent here. I also think the work will educate people as to the importance of the river & its ecology. Hopefully, this will spinoff into respectful behavior toward the river & the park environment.
Lastly, Tempe Recreation Reserve is highly visible from the Airport Drive. I am sure many thousands of people look & wonder about this park every day. Now when they are driving past they will get an excellent look at the bank restoration work & instead of seeing a rundown eroded area filled with weeds & junk, they will see beauty. The benefits will flow on further than just the users of the park. To me this is priceless.
A massive thank you to Sydney Water & contractor Total Earth Care from me. You give me hope that one day the Cooks River & the Alexandra Canal will be restored & we will have a healthy river system once again. All work here is worth it many times over.