Shake out your blanket, gather your friends and set up your lunch because the future of the Bundaleer picnic ground has been secured and now plans to build a new community and event centre have been firmly implanted.
After three and a half years of negotiations and lobbying, the State Government has been able to confirm that the 22-hectare recreational site will remain open to the public, following divestment from the commercial forestry operations.
The future of the grounds has been an on-going battle for passionate picnickers, yet for Greg Boston, the Chairperson of Bundaleer Forest Community Areas Association, he is relieved to finally have a future in something which will remain as an icon for the Mid North for many years to come.
“The government at this point have said that they will retain the responsibility and management of maintenance and liability insurance for the area.”
In 2017, the care of the Wirrabara Forest had been transferred to the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources and this news was striking for the association, pushing them to fight harder and harder against the government, all to secure a future for their grounds.
“Bundaleer was the first plantation forest in Australia, this picnic ground has been enjoyed by the local community for just over 140 years.”
“All of us locals have some what taken this area for granted and it wasn't until we were threatened, that we took the matter as seriously as we did. We saw it as a real risk, that we might lose this recreational area in the future if we didn't do something about it.”
As the only remaining public area in the Bundaleer precinct, the association decided to move the grounds towards a more fulfilling and multi-use area, using an allocation of $150,000 from the Fund My Neighbourhood project late last year, to put forth an idea of constructing a new visitor, community and event centre.
Following the grounds being secured, Forestry SA have awarded the association a further $100,000 community grant to go towards creating the new visitor space.
“One of our focuses is to grow the use of this area, which is why we are building this event centre and we have a raft of other projects that we have developed over the period that we are now very excited about”, Greg Boston said.
“The event is quite a large project, it is around about 300 square metres. It will be situated on an elevated area, over looking the picnic grounds. It will have full facilities with a kitchen and toilets, seating area for 70 people but also a very large outdoor deck area which will make it ideal for weddings and parties.”
“But also offering for people to hold conventions, meetings and smaller opportunities such as yoga, health and well being activities.”
“It will also be a nucleus for schools to use as a learning centre to bring children out to the forest and use that as an educational tool and make use of that facility at the same time.”
Although the centre is not the only plans which the association has in the works, in the near future they would like to create the largest nature play playground in regional South Australia.
“This will be achieved by some funding, it is great project because it is a continuous project that can be built on progressively.
“There are already plans in place to start with the building of a tree fort. We have the services of Simon Hutchinson from Climbing Tree, who is a highly regarded nature play guru. Simon is on board with us on helping us to develop a master plan for that playground.”
With such a bright future ahead for the grounds, the association will be hosting a celebration on Sunday March 25, doing what they do best, having a picnic, to celebration the funding and security of their future.
“At midday, our committee has decided this is such great news that we want to offer a bit of a community celebration, to mark this historical occasion. It signifies the start of a new era for this beautiful area, that we have probably taken for granted.
“We are inviting all community members, people outside of the community to come and join us to celebrate on that day.”
Greg would like to say a large thank you to every person who did their bit to secure the future of the picnic grounds.
“It’s been a massive effort of literally thousands of volunteer hours over the three and a half years, but together we have saved an extremely important part of Australia’s oldest plantation forest.”