On most mornings of the week, after I take Dan to Yellow Bridge, I like to take a walk along the West Creek walkway. Passing walkers with dogs straining at the leash and children on bikes, enjoying their last days of freedom before the end of the school holidays, I realise how spoilt we are for parks in Toowoomba. Throughout the city there are over 240 parks and gardens. Most are just little parks or playgrounds, usually within walking distance, dotted around the suburbs, like this one that was just a few steps down the road from our last house….
Then there are the more formal gardens of Toowoomba, such as the Japanese Gardens, Laurel Bank Park right next to Yellow Bridge, where Dan goes every week, Picnic Point with scenic views of the Darling Downs, and Queens Park right in the CBD. Every September these gardens attract thousands of visitors as Toowoomba hosts the Carnival of Flowers. Even in the midst of drought, the parks and gardens provide a little oasis from the hustle and bustle of city life. Despite its city status, the open spaces of Toowoomba’s gardens and parklands help to foster a friendly country atmosphere. It is one of the things that I like most about Toowoomba and it reminds me of my hometown, Adelaide in South Australia.
But it wasn’t always this way.
Travelling back in history, I discovered that Toowoomba once provided a very different view. Back in 1878, the streets of Toowoomba were littered with…
‘overflowing cesspits, filthy pigsties, dirty poultry houses, offensive middens … putrefying accumulations of fruit and vegetables, ill kept drains and stagnating slop-water and slime’
Sounds delightful, doesn’t it. Hardly the picture of a garden city, but probably no different to any other city in the world during the nineteenth century. It is quite shameful to think how quickly European settlers were able to turn a pristine location into a cesspit of filth and slime. I am reminded of the story of King Midas, except that instead of turning things to gold, we have a tendency for turning things to filth.
But we can turn it around.
As I wander along the walkways and around the gardens today, past the artificial lake where enthusiasts sail their remote controlled boats, past the floating water lilies or the waterfall gushing down the quarry cliff-face, it is hard to imagine the overflowing cesspits and stagnating slime. In a city known for its gardens and clean mountain air, it’s difficult to imagine typhoid epidemics and schools without proper sanitation. We may not always be able to return locations to their original condition, but we can always do something to turn a cesspit into an oasis.
I think the Toowoomba Regional Council should be commended for their efforts to create a healthy, attractive and sustainable environment for the city’s residents and visitors. All through the year, and especially in the lead up to the Carnival, you can see them hard at work, planting, pruning, irrigating and mowing all the parks and gardens. With around 1000 hectares of parkland to maintain, it’s certainly a massive job.
But wherever we live in the world, we can all play our part. It’s always a shame to see our environment littered with refuse – especially just a few steps from a bin. It’s not hard to…
- Put your rubbish in the bins provided or take it with you.
- Recycle your containers and rubbish
- Keep the waterways clean for the fish, turtles and birdlife
Do you have some favourite parks or gardens in your hometown? I’d love to hear about them and if you’re ever in Queensland in September, please come on down to the Carnival.
Enid Barclay, “Fevers and Stinks: Some problems of Public Health in the 1870s and 1880s”, Qld Heritage, Vol 2, no. 4 1971 pp 3-13.