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Elsternwick Park Nature Reserve

In the early evening of 8 November 2016, naturalist Gio Fitpatrick led a group around the then Elsternwick Golf Course. Gio introduced us, as only he can, to the wondrous intricacies of interactions in nature, and the particular nesting requirements of parrots. The majestic sugar gums glowed in the sunset. It was the early part of a campaign to inspire others about the vision to transition the Golf Course into a Nature Reserve.

Inspired by Gio Fitzpatrick and the potential of a Golf Course to become a nature reserve, (photo Janet Bolitho)

With participation in golf declining and anticipated future costs associated with the run down golf course escalating, the Bayside City Council (BCC) sought community views on the future of the space. The campaign intensified. But this was emphatically not a street marching kind of campaign. Instead it was patient and informed engagement with every step of the many processes set up by BCC between aspiration and realisation. Deliberative panels, advisory groups, consultation forums, submissions, the newly formed Elsternwick Park Association (epa1) participated with commitment. No advocate was more dedicated than Jo Samuel King, President of the Association. To progress the cause of Elsternwick Park Nature Reserve, she stood for election in 2020 and to her surprise, but hardly to the surprise of others, she was duly elected to Bayside City Council.

The Park ceased to be a golf course and was opened to the public in 2018. During lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, the Park was the saviour of the mental health of the surrounding neighbourhoods. Engagement with the Park and with nature deepened. Bird watching and bird photography went to a whole new level and the progress of Tawny frogmouths on the nest was followed day by day.

BCC commissioned a masterplan for the Reserve from landscape architects McGregor Coxall. Unlike many such documents, it is inspiring and beautiful and quite simple to read.

The first stage of the masterplan to be delivered is the chain of ponds. The chain of ponds is a series of inter-connected water bodies – some shallow and some deeper and of different configurations – that will allow water to move through the Reserve and be cleansed along the way, as well as providing habitat for the different requirements of various creatures.

Work began on creating the chain of ponds in 2021. Natalie Davey, who succeeded Jo Samuel King as President of the Elsternwick Park Association, watched the machine operators, more used to creating golf courses than de-constructing them, and how they responded to the warp and weave of the land’s natural shape2.

Early work on the chain of ponds, April 2021

On June 23rd, the fences surrounding the chain of ponds were removed. The enchanting stepping stones were at last accessible to be crossed and crossed again by delighted children, and adults. The wildlife friendly netting will stay in place to protect the plants until they have securely taken hold.

Stepping stones between the ponds, June 2022

At present the water is murky with suspended sediments but over time it will settle as the reeds and sedges take up the nutrients and pollutants. Storm water will mingle with water from the Elster Creek and reach Port Phillip Bay in a purer state.

Stage 1, the chain of ponds, is delightful. Conditions appear to suit the White-faced heron in one of the settlement ponds. Everyone along the path said, unsolicited, words to the effect of ‘Good, isn’t it?’ Josh Burns’ election pledge of will enable further stages of the ten year Masterplan to be delivered.

White-faced heron in the chain of ponds at Elsternwick Nature Reserve (photo: Janet Bolitho)


1 epa to distinguish it from the other EPA, the Environment Protection Authority

2 Natalie Davey, @epa facebook, 22 April 2022

Find the Elsternwick Park Nature Reserve Masterplan here.

Find @epa on facebook

Travel to Elsternwick Park Nature Reserve from Port Melbourne via the 606 bus

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