Over January I set myself the challenge of walking the Adelaide City Parklands Trail which meanders through the parklands around our city for around 20km. I followed the blue signs on the path starting from Veale Gardens on South Terrace through the west terrace cemetery, over to Bonython Park, through the parks of North Adelaide, past the open paddocks where the horses graze, and then down the eastern side through Botanic Park, Victoria Park to the wetlands and then back along the south side once again to the rose garden.
It was an amazing opportunity to understand the beauty and diversity of our parklands from formal gardens, community vegetable gardens, and playing fields to renewed wetlands and regenerated bushland. In parts, there are examples of stunning public art and everywhere there are signs with stories that remind us that this is the land of the Kaurna people as well as telling the history of colonisation in our city.
In my view it's a wonderful Council project and should be celebrated and publicised far more than it is. At times the signage got a bit lost and some of the blue signs need repair but as I went, I thought of ways we could use this trail to promote the beauty and importance of our parklands. For example, producing materials for the community and tourists, partnering with Walking SA and Bike Adelaide and maybe even having a yearly fun run or community walk on the trail to raise money for a good cause or just to encourage our residents to get out in the fresh air and do some exercise. While I was walking, I was mostly alone so I wondered just how many people knew about it. We need to think about the parklands as part of our city, not the boundary of our city.
Of course, as I walked along, I also looked at the parklands from my point of view as a councillor, asking what we could do to make things even better than they are. Here is my list of the good, the bad, and the ugly. (mostly good)
* The number of grand old trees from the original River Red Gums to historic olive groves and gnarled peppercorn trees to the majestic Moreton Bay Fig trees in Botanic Park.
* The little curved homes made of stone on the edge of Sir Donald Bradman Drive and the bronze sculptures in Wirrarninthi park 23 next to the cemetery. Both are brilliant examples of beautiful public art in nature.
* The view from the top of North Adelaide across the paddocks to the Adelaide Hills where you only see trees and hills, no buildings. You could very well be in the country, rather than in the middle of the city.
* Our wonderful Botanic Park and Gardens, the best in Australia by far for the variety of plantlife and their conservation work of endangered plants such as the famous corpse flower.
* The Victoria Park Grasslands Biodiversity Trail, which supports the Chequered Copper Butterfly.
* The naming of all parks with Kaurna names and the cultural burn, returning the land management knowledge of the Kaurna people. Check it out here
* The Quentin Kenihan inclusive playground on the edge of Rymill Park.
* The huge variety of picnic spots, playgrounds, playing fields, skate parks, dog parks and even a public golf course so people can easily enjoy outdoor activity for their mental and physical well-being.
* Knowing that the State Government recently legislated to bypass the Parklands Act, the Council, and the Planning Act to build the Women's and Children's Hospital on the parklands instead of a site within the city.
* The way SACA and other sporting clubs and private schools have taken over large areas of parklands and seem to forget that it is public land that belongs to the whole community, building new and bigger club rooms and locking off areas to public access.
* The proposed site for the new Aquatic Centre which disregards the important interaction between city residents and green space, putting a new swimming centre directly opposite their houses on the edge of the parklands.
* The constant battle to keep the parklands safe from those who see parks as available for development and activation, not valuable in themselves as green, open, public space.
* The fences, concrete bollards, and bitumen in Victoria Park that is still there at the end of January following the car race last November.
* The never-ending temporary fencing for months at a time.
* Lack of maintenance of the trail signage, especially where new works have taken place.
A special moment on my way was in Botanic Park on a beautiful warm Adelaide evening. The sun was low in the sky and a group of friends was sitting in the park around their trestle table spread with a crisp white tablecloth, a couple of bottles of wine, and plates of shared food on the table. Under their feet was the lush grass of the park and above them the giant trees. There was little or no traffic noise, only the sound of the evening bird chorus. No one else was there, they had a whole park to themselves. They looked so content and I reflected on the benefit of this evening dinner to their health and well-being. Good friends, good food and wine, and the joy of being in nature. This is the essence of Adelaide.