Christobel Munson goes deep into the features and facilities of the unique green oasis, Bangalow Parklands. The year 2023 has brought new life and energy into the precinct currently known as Bangalow Parklands. Just a short walk away from the main commercial street of Bangalow, this 2.67ha (6.6 acre) area bordering Deacon Street provides residents of the town and hinterland, as well as countless visitors, with a designated green space, the envy of many other villages of this size.

Locals will be well aware of the two kids’ playgrounds, the rotunda, the delightful Byron Creek meandering around its periphery, the open grassy areas (perfect for picnics), the numerous plantings of mainly native species and – let’s not forget – the vital public toilet block, beautifully enhanced with a mural depicting the history of the area going back thousands of years.

But this park precinct is more than just a pretty place.

In the post-COVID time, many different branches of our community have focused their activities in and around the park.

The Men’s Shed is located to its west, offering exercise classes, art and woodworking classes, a Blues and Jazz group, even table tennis.

The well-loved and frequented Op Shop – known far and wide for its vast collection of second-hand clothing – is in the Anglican Church grounds to the east of the park.

The Bangalow Land and Rivercare group meets regularly to maintain and enhance its massive plantings around the park – the highlight of which must be their cool, green creekside walk. In 2014 and 2016, the Landcare group obtained funding for (and organised the planting of) nearly 4,500 now-mature rainforest trees along the creek, just one of the many projects it has undertaken in the area since it began in 1998.

The small but perfectly formed Parklands group works with the Council’s Open Spaces team to maintain many areas of the park, enhancing it by establishing garden pods of native and bush tucker plants. The Council’s busy Bush Regen team recently substantially upgraded the Wetlands. (Did you know these Wetlands serve to trap and filter flood waters, removing pollution and providing fish and wildlife habitat?)

A workshop offered by the 2023 Byron Bay Writers Festival, had Dr David Roland making use of the Parklands environment to encourage participating writers to tune into nature for support and inspiration in a session titled ‘Nature Connection for Creativity’.

Between 2011 and 2021, Bangalow’s population grew by 48.7%, and, with the trend towards smaller house blocks, more families are looking to the park for recreational space. This park is now well known as the ideal space for kids – and adults alike – to ‘swap screen time for green time’.

The Bangalow Historical Society’s Heritage House (the House), on the corner of Ashton and Deacon Streets, is at the park’s heart, with many community groups, individuals and families making use of its facilities. At its September 2023 Annual General Meeting, President Trisha Bleakley rattled off a list of the activities happening in the House since reopening in February.

The museum is open four days a week, but the House itself has rapidly become a community hub. Apart from staging three historical exhibitions to date this year, the Society has hosted garage sales, cake stalls and a craft fair, with another scheduled for November. It caters for funerals and wakes, and has provided the space for weekly yoga classes, a meeting of a Christian group, meetings of the YES group, the CWA and visitors from Feros, an outing of 52 seniors from Burleigh Heads, monthly meetings of Community Connect, information days and meetings of Beacon Laundry, a new community business. The overhead screen and projector are proving extremely useful for small groups.

Kids’ days at the museum are attracting keen interest from primary school-aged kids. One, in particular, was a hit: the 1950s games day, where youngsters could experiment with such toys as slinkies, hula hoops, dominoes, drafts, and knuckles. In keeping with the theme, ‘fairy bread’, milkshakes and Choo Choo bars were also available.

The Historical Society has also partnered with Zero Emissions Byron – and with the support of the Byron Shire Council Sustainability team – to create a demonstration Eco House. The dream is to retrofit the House to showcase ‘best practice’ sustainable innovations, materials and products. To date, with the additional backing and support of Community-Owned Renewable Energy Mullumbimby (COREM) and Rous Water, this small team has had consultant’s reports prepared to show how residents can reduce the cost and use of both water and energy in a late 1890s-built, relocated wooden Queenslander house. The project is known to some as ‘Pimp My Queenslander’. Already its energy costs have been reduced by taking up the consultant’s suggestions, with more planned.

Falling back to its primary purpose, at the Historical Society’s AGM, historical researchers Tanya Pearson and Fiona Smith made a presentation about the vast number of fires that demolished many wooden buildings in Bangalow’s early days. (Were you aware that between 1907 and 1939 there were seven major fires in the main street, after which, insurance companies refused to provide buildings with insurance unless they were brick-built?)

Behind Heritage House is a car park, the space cunningly repurposed (thanks to a Parklands team grant) from its former use in the distant past as a cattle dip site. Up to 43 car park spaces are well used on monthly market days and when the town holds events like the Writers Festival, the Billy Cart Derby, Christmas Eve Carnival and the Bangalow Chamber Music festival.

The rotunda, also built with funds from a grant obtained by the Bangalow Parklands team, is used day and night for a variety of community activities such as tai chi, yoga and singing classes, and being a prime location – in town and in nature – for birthday parties.

Not many towns with a population of 2,808 can boast such a wellloved and well-used park in the centre of town, made popular thanks to the volunteer work of so many community groups, families and individuals. Best of all, entry doesn’t cost a cent.