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Understanding the Emerald Lake Precinct development, a local’s perspective.

The re-development of Emerald Lake Park has often sat in the back of many an Emerald local’s mind, as something that we knew was coming eventually, but if we’re being honest, it wasn’t something that we worried about. Most knew that there was a rough plan to “fix the park up”, but not sure when. Well, the when is 2024-2034! Planning the whole thing has been going on for a while now. According to Cardinia Councils Emerald Lake Precinct Plan of 2020-2030 , “Council undertook extensive community engagement for the development of the strategic plan. Phase One (16 July to 26 August 2018) began the development of the plan…” and “Phase Two consultation on the plan took place over seven weeks from 24 September until 11 November 2019.”

In order to accurately write this article, it’s vital to understand the history of Emerald Lake Park.

Di you know that Emerald Lake (Lake Treganowan) wasn’t even a lake until the late 1930’s?! Apparently, it was actually quite difficult to create the lake as it is now. The lake was commissioned and built by the council at the time, and “The park was designed to serve as a public recreation area for Emerald and for day tourists from further afield.” (The wish for a lake was inspired by the small dam that was built pre World War 2, that was constructed to turn flax into rope for the war efforts. For the record the flax plants were removed in the 1950’s.)

The other point to understand is that Emerald town, Puffing Billy and Emerald Lake Park are like peas and carrots, chips and sauce, peanut butter and jelly… they are besties of the highest form. Way back in 1899 Nobelius was a strong advocated for a narrow-gauge railway track to be built to help him get his plant stock down to Melbourne. That railway was built in 1900, and his shed is still there today. This narrow-gauge railway would go through its own historical developments, but in 1944 Lakeside Station was opened to bring day trippers up and take them home again after a delightful day in Emerald. The railway closed again in 1954 due to land slips (amongst other things), but then reopened to Emerald in 1965. Now known as Puffing Billy, the line was extended again into Emerald Lake Park in 1975, once again delivering city dwelling day trippers, tourists, and international visitors daily. In essence, Emerald Lake Park has only been in its current form since 1975.

The understanding that the lake was created, and not an existing piece of our Emerald landscape makes one think of what the park was and should be used for. It was always a place for city slickers to come to and cool off on a hot summer’s day, or to admire the autumn colours as a summer gave in to cooler days. Emerald locals benefit from having the park in close proximity, but Emerald Lake Park, (now to be called Emerald Lake Precinct, since the joining of the Nobelius Heritage park in 2017) was and will remain a destination for visitors and locals alike.

This project is estimated to cost $13.9 million dollars. Nearly every bit of the park is being redone. You are encouraged to have a look at the council produced page: which fully outlines the 7 masterplan zones, including clickable images and even a Frequently Asked Questions portions. Make sure you get through every zone, so you are aware of the changes (and provide your feedback accordingly!). You’ll need to set yourself about 45 minutes to do this. Feedback closes 25 August 2022 (very soon!).

It is expected that council are looking forward to starting the Lake Tregnaowan portion of the park first. This includes the following:

  • upgrade existing playground to regional level play space, pool removal but inclusion of a user pump trickle water play space

  • Upgrade Gus Ryberg amphitheatre

  • Proposal for the build of a new building for a cafe (private investment)

  • Existing cafe building removed and turned into picnic shelter/bbq area

  • New toilets in central location near playspace

· Gus Ryberg Ampitheatre-new shelter, path and steps.

· Dedicated Fishing areas

· Upgraded Lakeside toilets and historic shelters.

· Playground to include Sand Pit, Zero depth Water play, Tube slides, Flying Fox, Ropes Course

· Eastern Dandenong Ranges Trail: Define the Eastern Dandenong Rangers Trail (EDRT) with sealed servicing and way finding and etiquette signage. Upgrade the trial as required to meet regional standards (noting that this may be that this may require removal or relocation of existing tree

Positives for Emerald locals

  • 20 or so car parking spaces added to the park (4 disability spaces), 120 formal carparks spaces in the Puffing Billy area of the park, and 114 currently in the Lakeside Carpark.

  • Upgrading and centralising toilet blocks.

  • Removal of the wading pool for a trickle/pump style water play space that can be open all year long.

  • Signage and paths will be upgraded to make the park more accessible.

  • Opportunity for a local business to run a café in the new waterfront building

  • Three new shelters

  • Main event and hire space – Gus Ryberg Amphitheatre

  • Bunurong, The Gums and Carl Stemp amphitheatres are being upgraded and these spaces will be available for hire.

  • Increased tourism to our local area.

  • Events, concerts, and functions in the newly renovated precinct will be exciting.

Points for consideration, as you prepare your feedback!

  • Locals must pay for parking; this is the ONLY park in the shire that operates with paid parking.

  • Wading pool removal, is this a good thing? Is a pump style trickle water play space a fair trade off? Will this encourage people to swim in the lake?

  • Do we need two cafes in the precinct, and so close to each other?

  • The bulk of the funding for the Lake Treganowan play space is coming from councils Playground Renewal Fund. Promises have been made that this will not effect the renovation of the Puffing Billy Reserve Park (in town), but how can we be sure?

  • No park ranger, rather the introduction of park ambassadors- is this viable?

  • Concern for long term upkeep of the park.

  • Increased tourism, but largely these people will stay in the park rather than in the town as has occurred in the past.

  • How will bike riding in the park be affected? Some kids use these track to get to Emerald Secondary School.

Cited text:

Emerald Lake Park Conservation Management Plan, Cardinia Shire Council 2020

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