When in a state of nature, some 200 years ago, Toowoomba was a place of meandering streams and lagoons. These wetlands were mostly reduced to concrete-lined drains as the city was adapted to better suit the needs of urbanization and industrialisation. A small paddock near the corner of Alderley and Mackenzie Streets on East Creek survived total elimination, albeit being greatly modified, for example, as Chinese market gardens. (A well that supplied these gardens has been preserved in the reconstructed parkland). In 1980 it was a cow paddock, drained by several deep ditches and infested with weeds. By about then the Aberdeen Street development had encroached on the eastern side of the swamp giving it an unnaturally steep profile.
The vision of Ken Ferrier
Enter Ken Ferrier a local man and committed ‘greenie’. Ken recognized the historical and environmental value of this swampy piece of land and I needed little persuasion to his point of view. Together we wrote a submission to go to the Toowoomba City Council for the preservation and development of the East Creek swamp. It was sent jointly by the Toowoomba Field Naturalist Club (TFNC) and Toowoomba Green Watch (TGW). Both of these organizations were actively involved in conservation at that time. The latter is now defunct, regrettably.
Well this ‘grand plan’ was received with interest by Council who politely ‘put it on the shelf’. However, that was not the end of the matter. The Australian Bicentennial Celebration was to take place in 1988 and each local council had to produce a suitable commemorative project. So we submitted another, more detailed, proposal. Alternatives projects were considered by Council, one being the refurbishment of the Empire Theatre, and costed and rejected. However, the plan for the creation of a water bird habitat on East Creek was adopted in 1983 as Toowoomba’s Bicentennial Project. It had a predicted cost of half a million dollars. Quite a lot of money in those days, to be got from local and federal government and private donations. And seven hectares of land were available, too little really. Work started in 1985.
Five objectives of the TBWBH
- To save the swamp
- To attract a variety of water birds
- To encourage passive recreation and education
- To have it look attractive
- To aid in flood mitigation
All have been achieved except number 5, which was a bit optimistic in the light of the massive excavations of flood detention basins presently being undertaken upstream and downstream.
|Peg Iseppi at the 1988 opening of the Habitat|
Designing for birds and people
|Platform over the north Lake|
Important ‘small’ details included a gap under the internal fence to allow for the passage of ducklings from their nest holes to the safety of the water, the preservation of the flyway (gap in the trees) from the southwest to the northeast for larger birds with a shallow take-off trajectory, bench seats placed on the lagoon side of the pathway to preserve the view of bird watchers.