A group of Willunga residents is transforming their local reserve into an area they aim to have teeming with biodiversity.
The Bassett Street Reserve Neighbourhood Group (BSRNG) formed in 2018 after residents talked about what they would like to see happen to improve the environment at their park, and how they could work together to achieve their goals. Landscape designer and artist Evette Sunset lives opposite the reserve and steers the group’s activities, including working in liaison with council to receive support for the development.
A pioneering memorandum of understanding (MoU) and a collaborative work plan are in place between council’s Parks and Natural Resources team and BSRNG, which allow the residents to maintain their autonomy in the projects being carried out in the reserve. The MOU explains the mutual aims of both parties and covers insurances and work health and safety precautions.
Being part of BSRNG is voluntary, and people can move in and out of the group as they please. About 10 residents regularly participate in activities at the reserve, including planting and watering trees. By Evette’s estimate, about 65 people from Willunga and further afield in neighbouring suburbs have been involved over the past couple of years.
“Our purpose is to demonstrate how interesting and interactive public spaces can be, as well as modelling different plants for residents and visitors. We want to empower people to be part of the big picture of what we’re working to achieve, starting from the ground up,” Evette says.
Several projects have been undertaken and continue to flourish. Last financial year BSRNG was successful in securing a public place improvement grant from council. The Willunga Environment Centre supports BSRNG with the use of its grant monies. Activities at the reserve have involved all teams in Parks and Natural Resources, the Construction and Projects team and Assets and Technical Services.
Using the grant funds, sections have been created within the reserve using native plants chosen by BSRNG.
A pocket forest is planted mainly with a collection of small eucalyptus trees suitable for domestic planting. As the eucalypts grow and provide shade and colour, there will be seed pods, bark and flowers for nature play, and cubby building and natural art opportunities.
Verge garden beds using native plants and a broader seedling selection are starting to establish strongly and will be added to in the coming year. The verge plantings bring colour to the reserve, attract birds and butterflies, and will help to keep dust at bay.
Almond trees planted in two blocks during a previous park refurbishment are a nod to the early agricultural activity in the area. The installation of bird boxes has increased the population of native parrot species in and around the reserve.
Youth and Community Conservation Action Group (YACCA), comprising mostly school-aged members, also have a MOU with council to support their work at the reserve. YACCA has been working within the reserve for about nine years, revegetating the reserve and its creek line with native grasses, trees and shrubs. More recently, the group has designed and established a butterfly garden in collaboration with a nearby resident.
In early October the community participated in The Book of Nature, an onsite art project that was also supported by the public place improvement grant. Residents painted the timber railings of the carpark and applied images with stencils to tell a story about the animals that visit the reserve.
BSRNG is planning to plant a small orchard of fruit trees with the intention of harvesting the produce and sharing it among the community.
“Parks like Bassett Street Reserve are becoming community gardens, forests and play spaces of a different kind,” Evette says. “There’s plenty here for people of all ages. Feedback from the community says that the reserve now feels intimate, it’s people friendly, and they enjoy all the nooks and crannies.”
Council’s Community Conservation Officer Leanne Lawrence commends the initiative of the community in improving Bassett Street Reserve.
“The residents have a great insight into how the space is best used. With clever planting, the space is being transformed,” Leanne says.
BSRNG appreciates the role Leanne has played as council liaison.
“A lot of what we’ve achieved so far wouldn’t have been able to happen without Leanne’s support and positive approach,” Evette says.
Toilet facilities, tennis courts and a barbecue are available in the reserve.
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Margret Keath, Evette Sunset (centre) and Mémé Thorne enjoy a chat in Bassett Street Reserve.