Sustainable Bathurst | The future of George Park precinct

KEEP ON THE GRASS: Bathurst Regional Council is considering the future of the George Park precinct, which is used by Aussie Rules and cricket players.

KEEP ON THE GRASS: Bathurst Regional Council is considering the future of the George Park precinct, which is used by Aussie Rules and cricket players.

SPRING has sprung, and what a glorious few days we have been having. The fact that they came after some soaking rain makes it even better.

We’re now in one of the most delightful times of year in Bathurst, with the land lit up by both natives and introduced species: blazing yellow wattles and gentle pink blossoms.

As we go into spring, we’re being asked to consider the future of the George Park precinct, home of the Bathurst Bushrangers AFL team, cricket enthusiasts and other casual users.

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The plan is all about maintaining and upgrading the sporting fields and creating a proper car park to replace the current makeshift parking area. So far, so good.

Proper parking, in particular, might stop people parking under the trees, compacting the ground and threatening the trees’ health, especially as we face drier times.

But there’s one element of the plan that is causing concern in some quarters of the community. It’s this bit: “The installation of perimeter fencing to the whole of George Park precinct is proposed should AFL wish to control access.” This would provide “the ability to provide income stream through event management”.

At the moment the playing fields are surrounded by low mesh fences that define the space and help keep animals and small children in or out.

But a perimeter fence that controls access is a big leap up from that.

Ticketed events mean you’re not just keeping toddlers and children safe; you’re sealing an area off so that only those who have paid up get to come in through the gates.

That’s never been part of this precinct – it was once a commons – and is effectively a privatisation of hitherto public space.

Residents in the area fear a towering fence and restricted access to what has always been available for casual outdoor activity.

Chatting about this with a friend this morning, I learned that up until the 1960s, boys would pee down a spider hole on that site and up would pop a tiny lizard: the grassland earless dragon.

That tiny lizard is long gone from the area and is almost locally extinct. We don’t always know what we’ve got until it’s gone.

Council’s draft master plan for the precinct is now on public display and taking submissions until September 24.

Tracy Sorensen is president of Bathurst Community Climate Action Network. Visit www.bccan.org.au.