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An idea for a park of significance in the heart of Brunswick

A confession. In early 2012 when the following note was written the author had only lived in Brunswick for a year. He has learned a lot since then, but remains even more convinced of the credibility of the idea. Read this early version and then follow the link at the bottom to a more recent note. (June 2013 )

In 1998 a study "Upfield railway line habitat landscape concept" was prepared by Collie Landscape and Design with Iain Shears Horticulture for Bayside Trains, Hume City Council, Melbourne City Council and Moreland City Council. It was well presented and won an award for "Environmental and Ecological Masterplanning".

That was in 1998. Look at  Documents and you will find Brunswick Structure Plans that set down grand objectives for the area, but the only sense in which these can be seen as moving forward is that they set out principles for future development, but few indications where physical changes are to be made.

Consider the narrow strip from Park Street to Moreland Station containing the railway and the Upfield cycle track. On the east side it is bounded by the cycle track, with low grade paving and shabby fencing. The west has unkempt weed areas and untidy car parks.

The outer boundaries of the area are mostly industrial walls and fences, aging residential side fences and an increasing number of residential buildings.

There is a poorly maintained park adjoining the Jewel station, a few trees and small grassed areas at Brunswick and Anstey stations and a better maintained but an uninspiring park at Moreland station.

Along the strip there are places and objects of local and railway historical interest slowly rotting away, and many areas of apparently abandoned land that can be rehabilitated. Much of the railway easement is unused.

You will notice that the 1998 study has had no effect here.

The idea

The Brunswick Structure Plans describe "precincts" around each of the area's stations that are commendable in their vision. This proposal is that Moreland City and railway authorities cooperate in a plan to link the station precincts with the connecting railway easement into an attractive linear park that will benefit both organisations and the populations they serve.

Appearance and access to the stations will be improved. Commuters, cyclists and pedestrians will all travel though a more pleasant route; even the wildlife and the atmosphere will benefit from the presence of thousands of additional plants.

Imagine this strip given a thorough design work-over by creative people. All relevant bits incorporated into a linear park with aesthetically pleasing paving, fencing, lighting, planting and historical signage so that it becomes a coherent “whole”. An emphasis is placed on increased pedestrian traffic with separation from cycle traffic where possible, and toddler-proof fencing between all used areas and the rail tracks.

Aiming high will result in a park of national significance showing how an unattractive industrial and transport strip can become an enjoyable community asset.

The railway role

Can Moreland afford it?

Community involvement

The Upfield cycle track is a 'budget' effort; the standards for this park should be set several levels higher. At this stage there is no good cost estimate other than it will be low $millions, but it will be millions that conform to the aims of Moreland City budgeting aspirations.

The Moreland City Council Adopted Budget – 2011/2012 is for an expenditure of almost $100,000,000 for the period. The notion of “millions” for the park over a few years along with the potential for financial support from federal and state sources if the aim is truly innovative and significant is reasonable.

A crude start can be based on estimates for the supply and installation of 5 km of high grade fence ($200,000 to supply and $300,000 to supply and install weldmesh, the kind of fence used for the pedestrian gates at crossings and a fence that plants can grow on.), 4 km of upgraded paving ($250,000), 4 km of improved lighting (??) and the supply and planting of plants (Supply and plant 500 trees $50,000; supply and plant 2,000 shrubs $50,000; supply and plant 4,000 ground cover $60,000. Total $160,000), etc.

The bike track will be widened and made properly dual use, with separate pedestrian lanes where possible, fencing will be toddler proof, aesthetically pleasing and with improved and stylish lighting.

Areas at present unused will become plantations with many large trees, at least a hundred medium sized trees, many hundreds of shrubs and thousands of square metres of ground cover. Tree plantings will conceal unattractive boundaries and simultaneously provide space for artworks, resting and meeting places for pedestrians and homes for wildlife.

Car parks will be properly defined, paved and incorporated into planted areas.

The park can be an important canvas for displaying local history. There are the many bits of railway history – signals, signal boxes, unused turn off tracks, old buffers etc. - but also old buildings and new ones on old sites that can be identified. (There are buildings in Richmond with quality signs pointing out their history and paid for with Federal money.)

Attachment A lists some definitions and issues. Other links show parts of the strip with comments.

A June 2013 more detailed approach