Over the summer Hunters Hill Council has expanded the number of marked soccer fields at Riverglade Reserve from two to six. With an assortment of sizes, the marked soccer fields now cover the greater part of the open area below the ponds, and extend to within meters of the waterside path. It’s proposed they be in use at least three afternoons/evenings each week, as well as on Saturdays and Sundays. Does this matter?
Not necessarily; but the changes, and how they are being made, certainly run counter to Council’s Plan of Management for this reserve, and to the concept of democratic process.
The Plan of Management, originally prepared in 1999 (i.e. during the construction of Huntleys Cove), describes Riverglade Reserve as ‘a rich recreational resource owing to the diverse mix of natural ecosystems and open space, both of which are precious in urban Sydney’.
The Plan states that ‘Current recreational use of Riverglade Reserve is relatively low key with minimal conflicts occurring between different uses. Future use of Riverglade Reserve should be broadly consistent with that occurring at present’.
In August 2009 the Plan was amended to add that ‘However, there is a need to delineate / demarcate areas of appropriate use for specific activities. To facilitate enjoyment of the Reserve, the following are considered necessary’:
- a formalised walking/cycle track through the centre of the Reserve (recently incorporated into Council’s 6km Recreational Bike Route as a shared-user path for cyclists and pedestrians through the upper part of the reserve, and along the water’s edge;
- a boardwalk to span sensitive ecosystems in a new entry path from Manning Road (completed);
- interpretive signage (completed some time ago);
- specific areas of low-key use to enjoy views, sounds and ecosystems;
- designated dog off-leash areas (now under threat from the expanded soccer fields);
- construction of an amenities building,
- construction of a fenced children’s play area.
Unlike the Plans of Management for Boronia Park, and Gladesville Reserve (just across Victoria Rd), which allow for active recreation (rugby, cricket, soccer, netball, and skateboarding) in addition to passive recreation and off-leash dog exercise, there is no provision in the Plan of Management for Riverglade Reserve (either in the original or in the amendments) for organised sport apart from recognition of the pre-existing playing field East of the footbridge. There is no provision for increasing its use for organised sport.
Perhaps most worrying is not just that the changes are inconsistent with the Plan of Management, but that the changes have been made without consultation with either local residents or other users of the Reserve. This despite the fact that the POM states (p18) that: ‘Community participation in the Plan of Management is one of its objectives. This is consistent with broader community interest, involvement and participation in Riverglade Reserve.’ It is ironic that the recent meeting held to protest against the change of use of The Henley Club buildings criticised the State Government for its lack of consultation, yet there has been no consultation over the change of use of Riverglade Reserve.
Before increasing the intensity of use of Riverglade Reserve there needs to be discussion of any potential problems, including:
- the safety of other reserve users during organised sport, especially of children and the elderly using the waterside path,
- the increase in noise experienced by neighbours, especially during evening training sessions
- parking problems in surrounding areas,
- damage to adjacent areas being reinstated as bushland, and wildlife corridors
- the need for changing and toilet facilities
The Trust calls on Council to suspend the use of the additional soccer fields at Riverglade Reserve until such time as there has been proper consultation with local residents and users of the Reserve. And, If there is a consensus on increasing the number of soccer fields, then a full safety audit should be carried out on the likely effect of these changes before any such change is implemented.
The Trust wrote to Council, detailing its concerns, on 18th February; to date it has received no reply.