Elsternwick Park Nature Reserve
The 13 hectare parcel of crown land that is now the Elsternwick Park Nature Reserve was once part of an extensive swamp/wetlands area. This place is on the traditional lands of the Yaluk-ut Weelam, Boon Wurrung clan of the Kulin Nation. It was not long after settlement that a way of life, that had ebbed and flowed with the wetlands here for tens of thousands of years was radically changed forever. For more history see: Yalukit Willam- The River people of Port Phillip http://www.stkildahistory.org.au/ebooks/Yalukit_William_by_M._Eidelson.pdf
European settlement eventually saw the wetland drained and the creation of the Elwood Canal which now allows flow from Elster Creek directly into Port Phillip Bay.
Elster Creek only flows in a natural state through the reserve and is part of an extensive catchment encompassing parts of four municipalities, the Cities of Bayside, Port Phillip, Glen Eira and Kingston. Generally, Elster Creek is a highly modified waterway, over twenty kilometres in length. For most of this length, it has been altered from a natural waterway into underground or surface concrete drains.
Works in the Reserve since the 1950s include a water diversion via the Head Street drain, the creation of a lake in the south of the park and a small wetland in the north of the park. Despite the modest size of this wetland, it has become popular with local wildlife.
Most people are aware that the land where the reserve is now was previously a golf course but may not know that before that it was a trotting track!
This site is unique for a number of reasons:
Elster creek runs through the reserve.
This is the only remaining waterway between the Yarra and Mordiallic creek. The presence of fresh water provides vital habitat for wildlife. It also causes challenges for local residents when it floods.
It has a variety of habitats:
it has a shallow lake and wetlands that provide vital habitat for water birds.
It has mature, hollow bearing gum trees, providing nesting sites for native birds.
It has grassy woodlands with areas of seed bearing grass, that provide habitat for ground feeding parrots.
It is relatively free from night light pollution. This is important for insect populations as well as nocturnal wildlife.
It has been relatively free from disturbance. Over the last decade, the golf course was failing, so numbers of golfers were low. Also, members of the public were not allowed on the site. This allowed the area to be a relatively quiet refuge for wildlife.
The site was neglected by the previous golf course operator. This allowed areas of seed bearing grass to go unmown and branches and leaves were left on the ground and hollow bearing trees were left untouched. This provided excellent habitat for native species.
All of these factors contributed to the site being a unique wildlife habitat. Bayside Council has recognised the uniqueness of this site in its decision to declare it a nature reserve.
The land is managed by Bayside City Council. BCC underwent 18 months of community consultation regarding the future of Elsternwick Park North in 2016 and 2017. This involved days where hundreds or residents gathered together and ideas were thrown around. There were council led community sessions in which groups worked together to sketch out and define their vision of what the land could be used for. This culminated in the community drawing up 5 plans for possible uses and designs of the park for council consideration.
Over a number of years the former Elsternwick Park Golf course is being transformed into a world-class Nature Reserve. The journey to this point stretches back many years...
A condensed history of the story so far...
Bayside City Council (BCC) established an Elsternwick Park(north) ‘have your say’ consultation and a Deliberative Panel of 24 residents that met for 2 days and recommended option 1a for future uses of the wetlands, oval 2 and golf course.
Community campaign started by groups to comment on Bayside City Council's (BCC) community future options for use of the Elsternwick Park North.
Elsternwick Park (North) Masterplan - Special Meeting of BCC reported on outcomes of the Deliberative Panel and community consultation (78 members of public spoke). Council adopted in principle Option 5 (not options 1a or 2a) for an upgrade of oval 2, the golf course be retained for the period of the lease and to proceed with the development of a draft Masterplan.
Community campaign for BCC to endorse Option 1a for the creation of an urban forest, an expanded wetland, upgraded Oval 2 and new pavilion. The golf course not retained. Flood mitigation opportunity for an increased wetland to be modelled. Bayside City Council continued to support the golf course leasee to operate.
Elsternwick Park Coalition was formed by local groups to advocate for an environmental nature reserve, flood mitigation (with Elster Creek partnership of four local councils), public amenity and water quality
BCC adopted to declare the site as a new environmental focused park and wetlands and the golf course to close 30 June 2018.
Elsternwick Park Coalition transitioned to the Elsternwick Park Association (epa) Incorporated, constituted and with membership.
July- Dec 2018
Epa held a community celebration gathering in the park and viewing of Option 1A plan and epa, BCC and COPP councillors speakers outlined their future vision. BCC named four priorities for the site, agreed to set up the Community Reference Panel and to develop a project plan for the former golf course to be an accessible public space, while design is to be completed. BCC voted at the meeting to refer to the site as the Elsternwick Park Nature Reserve as part of decommissioning the golf course.
February- May 2019
Epa hosted a technical tour with BCC and COPP councillors of the new water recycling and wetland storage system in the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria. BCC endorsed the process for community engagement on the masterplan future design of the EPNR. Community reference panel endorsed the Project Plan for the EPNR. Epa continued background work on design features.
Mid -Late 2019
Epa first Annual General Meeting - presentation of epa’s Vision and Principles 2018-19 paper and four focus areas for the nature reserve to build on the history and achievements.
Epa volunteer activities organised for rakali and baseline fauna surveys, working bees, nest box project all run regularly in the reserve. 1st Elsternwick Park Los 3186 Community Clean up group to run monthly.
BCC noted the outcomes for the community engagement public consultation on the EPNR Masterplan (March- April 2019).
Elster Creek Flood Management Plan 2019-24 endorsed by four council partners (BCC, COPP, KCC, GEC) and Melbourne Water included a Plan to incorporate increased flood mitigation within Elsternwick Park in conjunction with development of Elsternwick Park Nature Reserve to reduce flooding in Elwood.
Epa held a Moonlight Cinema family event at the EPNR showing the film 2040 over 100 people attended. BCC adopted the ENPR Masterplan Report to transform the space into an exceptional wetland and nature reserve and epa's vision, setting out 5 principle design layers for amenity environment, flood mitigation and water quality systems and cultural education. Epa and Boonwurrung Foundation were closely consulted on the plan.
BCC proposed a ten-year masterplan of works including a new grassy woodland, visitor facilities, indigenous gathering places and a gateway feature building, a conservation island, a look-out knoll, board walks, habitat zones and outdoor community amenities linked by paths.
Epa negotiated with BCC for lease of the shed (within the EPNR)) and use of fenced area for volunteers to work and run activities in the reserve.
BCC undertook a clean-up of the site, demolition of golf house buildings and tree planting. New construction works also commenced for Stage 1 design and construction of the Chain of Ponds.
Epa Volunteer group started The Plant Lab to create on site plant propagation, house plant collecting and planting of native species in the north east areas and chain of ponds banks. A core group was able to become essential workers as their work was tied into the construction of the Chain of Ponds.
Melbourne Water investigation and assessment of flood mitigation options around Elsternwick Park has led to early planning work for a major project and proposal to increase the capacity of the Elwood Diversion Drain located in the park.
Epa plans are underway for a Elster Creek Waterwatch volunteer program to monitor regular water quality of the creek. This does not begin till 2022 due to the pandemic
Epa began work on a new website for improved access by all members to plans, events, volunteer groups, news and membership portal for joining and renewals. To be launched in April 2022.
Water began to flow in the ponds and planting commenced of aquatic plants on the banks and net covers.
Epa began collaborating with Boonwurrung Elder N'arwee't Carolyn Briggs from the Boonwurrung Foundation, Bayside Council and Project manager Marcus Gwynne to establish and design the central meeting place in the Chain of Ponds. The key themes established were:
~Remembering and acknowledging
~Learning, growth and sharing wisdom
~Connectedness, engagement and appreciation