Plants Dying Slowly

VOLUNTEERS working in Weston’s Fetherston Gardens are concerned that immeasurable damage will be done to the gardens if a master plan for the area is not released soon.

The Friends of Featherstone Gardens have been waiting since November for the ACT Government to release the draft plan which will indicate when water and power may become available to the site.

A spokeswoman for Territory and Municipal Services said the plan was delayed to incorporate the design features of the proposed Defence Housing Estate, which would front the eastern boundary of the gardens.

She said funding would be considered in the upcoming budget.

Friends spokesman Trevor Wilson said while volunteers had been working on the gardens for the past 12 months they needed to see the master plan in order to determine what needed to be done in future.

“The gardens are not able to be reopened to the public when these things have not been decided” he said.

“The gardens will eventually die if there’s never any water put on them”.

The Weston Creek community saved the old CIT School of Horticulture gardens site from being redeveloped when the institution was relocated in 2008.

While Territory and Municipal Services have ownership of the site and carry out some maintenance work, the community through the park carers group are responsible for returning the gardens to good health.

During the past year the group has carried out restoration work on the gardens including weeding, cleaning, planting and clearing ivy that had overgrown the area.

Secretary Lesley Pattinson said the provision of water was a critical component of the plan and until they had it, the best they could do was pray for rain.

“There will be water in the future and hopefully the trees won’t die before then” she said.

Ms Pattinson said the group really  needed to see the plan so they could  target their work and keep attracting volunteers.

She said the aim was to make the gardens available to the public once again but at the moment this seemed a very long-term goal.

The Weston Creek Community Council had hoped to hold this year’s community festival at the gardens in September but TAMS had indicated it would not be ready in time.

“There’s no final date -to us it seems it’s going to be pushed back into the future because the work’s not being done,” Ms Pattinson said.

She said the Friends of Fetherston Gardens planed to return the area to  its original 1970s feel, with a mixture of native and exotic plants.

“It’s quite exciting when you’ve removed ivy and up comes some bulbs you thought you’d lost forever” Ms Pattinson said.

The TAMS spokeswoman said there was no set timeline for the opening of the gardens and they would allow public access “once the area had been made safe.

This includes refurbishing park infrastructure such as pathways, pergolas and ponds, and removing any hazards.

She said the government had provided $50,000 for the development of the concept plan and consideration would be given to funding the plan’s implementation in the upcoming budget “bearing in mind other competing priorities”.

“Development opportunities identified in the concept plan will be implemented as funding becomes available” she said.

By Meredith Clisby
The Southside Chronicle
21 February 2012

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