From vision to reality 1997 to 2002
In December 1998 incorporation changed from the Steering Committee to the Friends. At this time the constitution was drawn up and the new vision statement accepted in February, 1999. It was at this time that the decision was made to only grow local rainforest species.
In order to get final approval from LCC, a Capability study and a Masterplan had to be developed. The Capability Study was completed in 1999 and the Masterplan was accepted by council on 11 November, 2001.
At this meeting it was observed that the botanic gardens were
“a unique project with high objectives and far reaching benefits to the region in terms of tourism, employment, and other economic advantages.
… the project has considerable environmental benefits that have the potential to enhance Lismore’s ‘green’ reputation and to reinforce its position on the international map.”
The Masterplan notes that the vision of the LRBG was to develop and maintain a sub-tropical rainforest gardens. A major objective of the plan was ‘to raise community awareness, understanding and a sense of responsibility by linking the landfill and waste recycling components of the Gardens to environmental education, ecological restoration, research and recreation/ tourism’.
The LRBG was not planned as a conventional botanic gardens which reflect an ethnocentric view of the environment. The expectation was that the gardens would
‘provide a focus for addressing the inter-relationship of humans and natural ecological systems and how that relationship can be sustained. It involves an ecologically based philosophy to the planning, design and management of the Gardens.’ (Noel Corkery one of the authors of the Masterplan).
At this time it was the policy of FLRBG to only grow plants on site that grew naturally within an 80 to 100 km radius of Lismore. This was later increased to 200km.
The hoop pine forest and some of the Eucalypt forest (koala food trees) were already present on the site, having been established in 1984 and the mid 1990’s respectively.
The first planting on site by the Friends was on 26 August and 15 September, 2002 along the entrance to the Waste Facility and Botanic Gardens and, despite the following dry weather, these trees are now thriving.
Clearing of Stage 1 of lantana, camphor laurels, other weeds and rubbish was started in 2000 by Envite teams. Further clearing work in 2001 and 2002 was undertaken by the Friends on a monthly Sunday workday with the assistance of paid help from EnVite, Work for the Dole and others funded by grants and LCC. In July, 2002 the Council provided a lockable shed in the Waste Facility area for the use of the botanic gardens.
Access to Stage 1 at this time was via the road that now goes past the dog pound. The road led up to the area known as the Glen (where the nursery and Palm Gully are now located) and up into the escarpment, a very rocky area. A path to the north led to Fern Valley and across the creek to what was to become the rainforest areas of Room 1 to 4. To the east were areas that came to be known as the Walker Estate and Rose’s Garden.
Calder Chaffey started the database in September, 2002 and the Australian Plant Society (of which he was a member) started clearing and planting at the top of the escarpment, above Fern Gully.
Just how difficult this area was is reflected in the words of our long time volunteer, Geoff Walker.
“We were weeding above the Dog Pound where there was a large clearing for us to park our cars. For many visits we only seemed to nibble at this forbidding undergrowth repelled by the lantana, in places four metres high, and the cockspur creepers that grabbed and scratched us at every opportunity.
One Sunday I slashed a path from Fern Gully to what we now call ‘Room Three’. I could not find the other creek rumoured to be in this area and I gave up for that day, dispirited, ill at ease with this proposed site for a Botanic Gardens. I did not feel comfortable working with the camphor laurels and tangled weeds.”
Establishment 2003 to 2012
Progress was slow but steady for the next few years. Things started to speed up when Rose Hand volunteered to organise a weekly Wednesday morning workday from July 2009.
Some stands of remnant dry rainforest vegetation were found across the creek from Fern Gully. These were used as the basis of 4 Rooms (areas with related vegetation) as they formed natural borders for the rainforest plantings.
Council installed pipes and taps in all areas of the gardens in 2003 to 2004. In 2003 Upper Fern Gully and Room 1 (dry rainforest) were cleared and planted.
This was followed by the Proteacea Grove, Lower Fern Gully, Room 2 (subtropical) and Room 3 (Myrtaceae) in 2004. Further planting in these areas took place in the following years.
In 2006 there was a TAFE project at the pond near the main road and planting in the weighbridge garden. Neither of these areas is in the gardens now. Also in 2006, the cascade garden on the right hand side of the entrance was planted as well as the area around Upper Grandis Creek (Room 4) and Room 1.
In 2007 there was planting near the confluence and along Grandis Creek, The Walker Estate and Rose’s Garden.
Stage 2 of the botanic gardens was the eastern end near the Hoop Pine Forest and Eucalypt forest. This area was heavily infested with tobacco bush and madeira vine (difficult to control because of underground and aerial tubers). The Rockery and BBQ area in the Eucalypt forest was constructed and planted in 2008 by Envite teams. The Wilson Park area was planted in 2008 and 2009.
Stage 3 of the gardens was the old landfill area and had to be covered with loads of topsoil before it could be used for planting. This area is now home to the Useful plants garden, Sunny Slope, Uncommon Plants Garden and the Sensory Garden. The Useful plants garden, first part of the Sunny Slope and Macadamia Garden were planted out in 2009 and there was more planting in the Glen.
In 2010 work began on constructing the Uncommon Plants garden and the Western end was planted out. The eastern end was planted in 2013.
Meanwhile, a lot of paths and 2 bridges were constructed (mainly by Green Corp) and a tool shed was built in 2010. In 2011 The Wednesday Group put in Discovery Trail 1 with the help of Green Corp and the council.
In September 2006, a gardener (Neil McQuilty) started working in the gardens 1 day a week, gradually increasing to 3 days a week by July 2007 and this was paid for by LCC. In 2012 Council maintenance staff helped volunteers in the preparation and maintenance of the Useful Plants Garden and the Uncommon Plants garden. They also worked on signs, paths and drainage and helped make a significant difference to the appearance of the gardens.
In early 2011 Council started looking at sites for a new environmental education centre. The first 2 proposed sites failed the Development Approval process but the third proposal was accepted and work started in November 2012.
In August 2012 there was a celebration to mark 10 years since the first planting on site. At this time the gardens were only accessible to the public by arrangement, guided walks and Open Days.
You can read more about the different areas of the garden here