Community Action has been key to improvements at Church Walk Park over the years.
Community action in Church Walk Park has taken many forms. Most notably it is local citizens who remove deadwood, weed and plant the park. We don't always have a lot of time, and sometimes groups fail and things get beyond us, but there's always some work going on via the good graces of local residents.
It's a privilege to have access to a pocket of biodiversity in the CBD of New South Wales' second city. Residents have undertaken:
Role of the City of Newcastle
The City of Newcastle is the park's formal custodian, but funding for parks is stretched due to the City's size, and in that context there is, regrettably, no real recurrent budget for the park.
The community has extensively lobbied for implementation of the Park's Plan of Management and small steps have been taken to achieve its goals. Recently the City also reinstated paths being cleared by blower twice a week for which park users are thankful. Green waste generated by Community weeding is also removed regularly. However, other than occasional weed sprays, this is the limit of recurring Council expenditure, despite the park's prominent central location and heritage status.
That does not mean that Council has been inactive. A number of important initiatives have taken place over the last ten years.
Improvements to lighting
Erosion control measures using coir logs
Resurfacing of paths
Replanting of parts of the park
Provision of plants to Community gardeners
Church Walk Park is has been placed on the list of City of Newcastle parks on the app and website
City of Newcastle has helped the local community re-found the local Landcare group.
We are very thankful for all works the Council has undertaken, and certainly the park has slowly improved over the last 10 years due to the combined efforts of Council and the Community.
Consequences of low funding
Unfortunately the low budget allocation for the Park has had significant consequences, many of which are due to the slow implementation of Church Walk Park's Plan of Management (excerpt at link) by City of Newcastle itself which highlighted the Park's problems twenty years ago.
Too little useful signage
Decaying retaining walls
Removal of Seating
Retention of invasive plant species
Removal of all garbage bins
Removal of street sweeping services to the slip road
Perhaps the worst consequence of all - the park's limited remaining facilities means that tourists and CBD workers cannot effectively use an amazing asset in the centre of our City.
Community Recommendations to City Council
Please establish a workable budget for the park. It isn't credible to manage a space so large with just two leaf blowers a week and a handful of volunteers!
Give the park a standard sign, like all of the other city parks.
Install some wayfinding signs! Church Walk Park is an important pedestrian route between King Street and Church Street but there is no signage to alert workers and tourists "not in the know".
The Park is an accessible route for prams and bicycles to Church Street, this should be marked.
Re instate street sweeping services to the slip road so that the drains don't flood across the intersection of King and Darby Streets.
Reinstate garbage bins so that the garbage problem in the park is controlled.
Replace some park benches (in better locations) so that the local workers can use the park for lunch.
Prune and remove dead wood annually.
Update the Management Plan. The existing management plan is 20 years old. The update of the Park's Management Plan has been pending for ten years and the delay is preventing capital allocations for improvements!
None of these recommendations is terribly expensive and all are in line with City of Newcastle's own policies and goals. With relatively little funding and continued community support Church Walk Park can be a real asset .
Join the team
Why not lend a hand in Church Walk Park?