A decades-old dream of beautifying Armidale’s creeklands may soon become reality.
The draft of a Council-funded master plan to improve the area between Markham and Douglas Streets is expected to be released for community feedback later this month.
Jim Scott, president of Visions for Armidale Creeklands Inc, a not-for-profit community association dedicated to broadening the creeklands’ appeal and beauty, is excited by the plan.
“We are delighted that Council is supporting this process,” Dr Scott said, “and we look forward to seeing the draft plan, but we realise that this is only the beginning.”
A presentation by the association to Council last year, Dr Scott said, led to the development of the master plan.
The association will hold a public meeting to develop a co-ordinated response to the draft.
Why the creeklands should be beautified
Plans to improve the creeklands as a valuable natural asset date back almost a century. A Citizen’s Committee to beautify the area near the Marsh Street bridge was formed as long ago as 1927.
“We believe this current generation has a duty to keep going, to keep acting on what started at least 90 years ago, to beautify this area,” Dr Scott said.
His Visions for Armidale Creeklands was formed in June last year, its mission to create expanses of water to improve the quality of life, economy, and the beauty of Armidale.
“All beautiful cities and towns of Australia and across the world have water as their central focus,” Dr Scott said.
The association wants to see the entire Dumaresq creekland improved – from Dumaresq Dam, or even from the university, up to the Blue Hole, in the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park – with water features, playgrounds, better bicycle paths, and an auditorium for outdoor performance.
This, Dr Scott expects, will also attract tourists to Armidale.
The creeklands, he argues, however, need care and attention.
“Unfortunately, once upon a time, they were really an industrial drain for bakeries and gasworks,” he said.
“That left a legacy that this generation needs to clean up. We must make sure we don't spoil things for future generations, but make things better so that all of these creeklands will be enjoyable.”
He applauded the work of the Armidale Urban Rivercare Group (AURG), whose hundreds of volunteers have successfully removed weeds and established tens of thousands of native plants along the banks of the creek over the past 16 years.
The Visions for Armidale Creeklands association hopes their approach will be complementary to the AURG's.
A young association with a long history
After its establishment in June last year, Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall officially launched the association in March. More than 40 people attended the event, including Mayor Cr Simon Murray.
The group began informally in 2002, when 70 residents met to discuss ways to improve the creeklands.
“We’ve got in our members over 1000 years of residency in Armidale,” Dr Scott said.
The association held its first Annual General Meeting last month, and elected a new committee of 11 passionate residents.
Graham Wilson was elected vice-president, Kerry Chick secretary, and UNE’s Discovery Centre head Dr Kirsti Abbott as treasurer.
"We hope our group will live on, and continue to want to improve the creeklands for decades ahead,” Dr Scott said.
“Just as it was formed 90 years ago, why shouldn't someone care for the creeklands for the next 90 years and beyond?"