Back in the 1970s, so I have been told, you could see from the western end of Beacon Road across an undulating grassy paddock to the North Tamborine village. The Forest Park area was mainly a dairy farm with a few houses scattered about.
In the late 1970s the area was bought by the Herringe family who applied for and were granted permission from Beaudesert Shire Council (BSC) to subdivide the area into half acre lots. A condition of the subdivision was that a small percentage was to be passed to Council for public use and environmental purposes. As is usually the case, the land least suitable for housing, i.e. the creek, was the area chosen.
The following is an exerpt from an article written by John Aagaard in 2000 for the Tamborine Mountain Natural History Association (TMNHA) magazine:
“The land (i.e. the environmental reserve) – most of it covered by kikuyu grass and weeds, with a few eucalypts and Blackwoods (Acacia melanoxylon) – lay idle for some years. In 1983 the Tamborine Mountain Field Naturalists’ Club (TMFNC) approached the Council with a proposal that the Club plant up this area with rainforest trees. This was agreed to by Council.
The first of many working bees was held to plant the trees and water them in, with water kindly supplied from a neighbouring bore. This was followed by weeding bees, supplementary watering bees, etc., etc. This process was repeated year after year, the last being planted in 1992. ………
For a long time the project looked a bit dicey. Mistakes were made. Planting into old kikuyu sward is not the ideal way to establish a rainforest. Many of the years were unusually dry. Until the trees in this area and in the surrounding gardens grew and provided shelter, frosts were a problem.”
Apart from these problems, we have been told that wind was also a problem for residents in the early 1980s and at least one family moved for that reason.
John Dickson was secretary of the TMFNC for many years and he was instrumental in initiating and organising the revegetation project. Thanks to the generosity of his widow, Mrs Caryl Dickson, and members of the former TMFNC and TMNHA, we have comprehensive records of the work done in the environmental reserve, including John Dickson’s diary of those early working bees from1983 till 1991.
According to a publicity article John Dickson prepared in 1990, “In March 1984 the first planting of 50 trees took place, ..with all trees grown by members – this was carried out in an arc round the sides of the creek and included tree ferns, Piccabeen and Bangalow Palms, Black Bean, Pittosporum and Red Cedar. …..
Following on 1984, enthusiasm increased with success and progressive plantings were carried out. In 1985/86 269 trees were planted, 1987/88 271 were planted, 1988/89 125 were planted and in 1989/1990 347 were planted. ……… (A total of 1062 trees)
In 1989 the Club entered for the Progress Association Tree Care Award obtaining a “Highly Commended” also in that year entered for the All Australian ABC & Greening Australia Competition for which the Club was awarded an illustrated manuscript for ‘wooded corridors’.”
The last diary entry by John Dickson is dated 13 February 1991, at which time John would have been 80. Soon after this he and his wife moved to northern New South Wales.
The records of what species were planted are incomplete but fortunately markers were erected indicating the years of the various plantings so it is fascinating and encouraging to walk round the area now and see the growth of those first plantings. The current Dickson Park working group is in the process of identifying and labelling all the trees in the Park partly as a public educational exercise but also for our own knowledge and experience.
The TMFNC became less active during the late 1990s mainly due to the aging of its members. Some of its activities were taken over by the TMNHA which was formed in 1975 to set up an interpretive centre for national parks.
From the early 1990s till 2000, the reserve was not maintained and weed problems developed. When we came to live in Sierra Drive in 1995, only a limited area of the Park was accessible and that only from Freemont Drive. The creek area was covered with Black-eyed Susan, and Moth Vine and there were many Privets and Chinese Elm. The Sierra Drive end was inaccessible because of Lantana and Moth Vine.
In 1999, TM Progress Association drew Council’s attention to the Morning Glory infestation in Esme Street Environmental Reserve where annual working bees on Weedbusters’ Day had failed to control the problem due to lack of adequate follow-up. A letter-box drop followed by a public meeting led to the formation of a group of local residents who worked twice monthly and were very successful in controlling the Morning Glory.
With the aim of forming a similar group to maintain the Freemont Drive reserve, Cr Vanessa Bull called a public meeting at the site in October 2000 and a working group, led by Ian Stephen, held their first working bee on 25 November. Since then working bees have continued to be held twice monthly. As in Esme Street, Council initially sprayed the worst weed infestations, particularly the vines. This was an encouraging start for the volunteers but was followed by a sea of Moth Vine seedlings (literally ‘like hairs on a dog’s back’) which required persistent and regular weeding from then on. There are still a few seedlings emerging but no seeds have developed and emergence is declining. In an area like this, surrounded by houses and gardens, maintenance is not a five year or ten year option but will always be necessary because of animal and wind borne weed seeds.
In late November and December of 2000, a Community Jobs Plan team led by Les Bartle made a significant contribution by planting rainforest species at the head of the creek and clearing Lantana down the next 100m of creek and around the Sierra Drive entrance. Soon after, Council erected wooden stairs into the park from the end of Sierra Drive making the reserve much more people-friendly for residents from this area.
The working group have done numerous plantings since, working progressively down the creek with a major one done on National Tree Day in 2001. These planting sessions have been interspersed with the inevitable weeding. Later that year, Council installed a 2,000 gallon plastic water tank, paid for by TMNHA, with a pipeline to two outlets along the creek. This greatly assisted revegetation work in the dry years. The tank was filled by Council when required and mulch was also supplied as requested.
In August 2001 the reserve was officially named the John Dickson Conservation Park in recognition of the foresight and hard work of John Dickson and his industrious group of Field Nats. A plaque was unveiled by John and then working group leader, Ian Stephen, and two Onion Cedars Owenia cepiodora were planted. At the time John Dickson was 90 years old and very frail. He died in 2002 and on 19 October, his widow and family spread his ashes in the Park.
In July 2002 Ian Stephen moved to Tasmania and I took over as leader of the working group. We have continued to maintain the Park and to extend the planting but most of our time has been occupied by weeding. There have been a number of problems.
In 2003 a serious outbreak of Running Bamboo in the creek at the bottom of the Park needed urgent attention. Cutting and pasting was done but the infestation was controlled in the long term by the persistence of neighbour, Trevor Ruddock, whose boundary was affected. He treated the regrowth and gradually defeated the pest.
Two mature Broad-leaved Peppers Schinus terebinthifolius, which had been carefully mowed around by Council for years, were injected with Glyphosate in 2004 and eventually killed.
In February 2005 with the cooperation of another neighbour we lopped and then removed five large vicious Fan Palms and various other weeds along his boundary. He subsequently cleared the area and removed the rubbish and was delighted with his new outlook.
Over the years since then, the exotic trees in the Park have all been removed and the working group now concentrates on weeding all exotics as they emerge. With 11 neighbouring gardens and contributions from the local birds and animals this is a never-ending task but a manageable one.
In 2007 Peggy Waring arranged with Council for a seat to be installed in the centre of the Park in memory of her husband, Jim, and acknowledging the work done by other TM Field Naturalists.
In 2010 we asked Council to cease mowing the grassy areas to allow natural regeneration to proceed unimpeded. Since then weeds (particularly Cobbler’s Pegs) have been controlled by whipper-snipping. In May of that year Council contributed half the cost of removing seven large Chinese Elms Celtis sinensis growing in an adjoining garden at the end of Sierra Drive. The working group cheered to see this happen as these trees had been the main source of weeds at that end of the Park.
In January 2011 Bruno Fiore, leading a Green Army team, constructed and installed a picnic table near Peggy’s seat. This makes a spacious and attractive picnic setting for locals and visitors.
Later in 2011 the 2000 gallon tank which was no longer used was donated to the Tamborine Bush Volunteers for use at their new nursery site in Beacon Road.
In November of that year Damien Draper of Red Belly Bushcare began work on the construction of a gravel walking track, paid for by Scenic Rim Regional Council.
In March 2012 a twenty-eight year anniversary of the first planting in John Dickson Conservation Park was held and attended by over 50 people. This was a good opportunity to thank all those who had contributed to the development of the Park since 1984. It was hoped that Mrs Caryl Dickson (wife of John Dickson) and John Aagaard (another significant member of the original TM Field Naturalist team) would be able to attend, but both were unwell.
In January 2013 considerable damage was caused by ex-cyclone Oswald to the Sierra Drive end of the Park and more damage was caused by heavy machinery in the clean-up. Replanting was not done until February 2014 to allow for the breakdown of the large quantities of pine chips covering the site and dry weather has slowed the establishment of these plants.
Later in 2013, funds were found to build another section of the walking track and in May, a boardwalk was constructed to complete the track from Freemont Drive to the picnic table. An informal track continues on to the end of Sierra Drive. It was agreed that the walking track should be named after John Aagaard who had contributed so much to the early development of the Park. On 28 June 2014 the John Aagaard Walking Track was officially opened by his daughter, Penny, in the presence of over 40 people including Roland Dickson (son of John and Caryl Dickson) and his wife, Rebecca.
A small local working group continues to monitor and maintain the Park. Bird and animal life has increased as the regeneration has progressed and recently (March 2014) the TM Natural History Association purchased eight nestboxes (for bats and gliders) and had them installed in trees throughout the Park. These will be monitored for signs of occupation. 52 species of birds have been recorded and at a working bee in October 2014 a Red-necked Wallaby was seen feeding on a grassy patch in the centre of the Park. This animal, or one like it, has been seen on several occasions during the last five years which is especially gratifying considering the number of dogs in the surrounding area.
John Dickson Conservation Park was the first Council Park to be managed by a volunteer community group and now after 30 years is an excellent example of what can be achieved over time and one of which we are justifiably proud.