Friends of Grasslands
supporting native grassy ecosystems
PO Box 440
Macquarie ACT 2614
Phone: 02 62.. ....
Design and Development
Territory and Municipal Services
GPO Box 158
Canberra ACT 2601
Molonglo Riverside Park – Coombs preliminary design
Friends of Grasslands (FOG) is a community group dedicated to the conservation of natural temperate grassy ecosystems in south-eastern Australia. FOG advocates, educates and advises on matters to do with the conservation of grassy ecosystems, and carries out surveys and other on-ground work. FOG is based in Canberra and its members include professional scientists, landowners, land managers and interested members of the public.
FOG was pleased to be invited to attend a workshop organised by TRC Tourism on 20 February 2013 and participate in consultation on the preliminary sketch plans developed by Hassell for the Coombs Riverside area. The preliminary design emphasises the twin objectives of conservation and recreation. FOG would like to comment on these two objectives separately.
While FOG accepts that the limits of the Molonglo Riverside Park (MRP) have been determined for the Coombs area, it continues to be concerned that the Park is, in most places, too narrow to offer the best possible opportunity to achieve sustainable conservation objectives in the long term. The River Park is so narrow in much of its length that the bushfire outer asset zones stretch through the Park to the southern edge of the river bank, even in those areas where there must some conservation effort to protect pink tailed worm lizard (PTWL) habitat as required under the EPBC Act. In FOG’s view there needs to be sufficient ground cover or understorey vegetation left or planted to provide protection for small birds, reptiles and mammals that are likely to use the corridor. FOG remains concerned that bushfire management requirements will constrain maintenance of such vegetation cover in the river corridor.
In the case of the PTWL habitat FOG is concerned about access by both people and their pets, with their likely impact on this threatened species. Trails should be moved away from the habitat and a dog park sited in a suitably-removed location to reduce usage of the paths around the PTWL habitat for dog walking and other recreation – see below for more details.
In summary, FOG remains concerned that protection of the PTWL and function of the corridor as a conservation corridor will be jeopardised in the long term by recreational activities and other urban impact.
Within the context of the above comments, FOG acknowledges those elements of the Coombs design proposal that address conservation of the site’s natural assets and the provision of effective maintenance. This, coupled with interpretive signage and environmental education for park users, will be crucial to the overall success of the design. The development of the Coombs section of the MRP will set a precedent for subsequent stages of the MRP and it is important that adequate funding be provided, especially for maintenance, for the plan to be realised at the highest possible standards. FOG would like to propose some changes aimed at enhancing environmental values and amenity for residents.
While the proposed hierarchy of paths and fences will control access to ecologically sensitive areas of the park, it would be unwise to underestimate the capacity of some members of the public to ignore all cues and make their own arrangements! The plan shows placement of rocks as barriers and in the PTWL habitat. In addition to the rocks proposed, we would encourage placement of quite large rocks at intervals in the PTWL habitat to discourage off road vehicles as past experience tells us that the stock fences are unlikely to be an effective barrier.
FOG would like to see the trunk path, together with the Bicentennial National and equestrian trails around the ‘deferred area’ between the grassy woodland and recreation zones pulled back to the southern boundary of that area. This would increase the asset protection zone and protect environmental values by bringing the urban edge back from sensitive areas of the Park while still allowing pedestrian access to the Park via the hiking and walking trails. It would open the way for permanent use of the area the by the community.
Amenity for residents
With the paths realigned, the ‘deferred area’ or Peninsula Park should not be developed but should provide in the southern section, improved amenity for residents. This could include the provision of a large, treed and fenced dog park within walking distance for nearby residents. Other recreational activities, such as a skate park (on the flatter part), or a fitness trail (on the steeper sections) could be permanently set up in the area. The northern section of the Peninsula Park should be revegetated with appropriate local species.
Planting Design Strategy
FOG strongly supports the concept of ‘foundation species’ within the proposed planting design strategy and would like to see the more southern tablelands species included in the foundation palette and in the recreation and picnic areas. The limitations of a narrow park might be offset to some extent by improving its function as a connectivity corridor for wildlife through the use, at appropriate densities, of understorey species which relate to the ecosystems being improved and/or maintained. Greater use of southern tablelands species would also increase the public’s awareness of the beauty and their suitability for residential gardens and hopefully encourage their inclusion in TAMS Design Standards for Urban Infrastructure DS 23 ‘Plant species for urban landscape projects’. Inclusion in the TAMS list would encourage growers to make these plants more readily available to the broader Canberra community.
John Fitz Gerald
21 March 2013