Golden Valley Tree Park

Balingup   Western Australia

Golden Valley Tree Park - Balingup

Golden Valley Tree Park is a sixty-hectare arboretum, set in steep and scenic rural countryside 1.5km south of Balingup. The land is freehold title held in the name of the Director General of the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA). It is scheduled to be formally gazetted as a reserve under the Conservation and Land Management Act. It is managed on a voluntary basis by a not for profit incorporated association, Golden Valley Tree Park Inc., (GVTP Inc.) in partnership with Parks and Wildlife Services (PaWS), a division of DBCA. GVTP Inc., operates under a Constitution. The Park is open daily and entry is free. The Bibbulman Track traverses the site.
At the entrance to the Park stands the original Golden Valley Homestead which was fully restored during the 1990's. The house was built in the 1880's, and its large Organ Room is used to house the administration of the Park.

The Botanic Collection
Golden Valley Tree Park is the largest arboretum in Western Australia, both in terms of area and number of species. The Park is divided into two sections, one area of 25ha for Australian trees and the other area of 35ha for the World Collection. There are over three thousand individual trees planted of over five hundred different species, some specimens of which date back one hundred years to when the original farming properties were established. Every year the collection is increased.

The landscaped Australian Collection demonstrates the diversity of native tree forms, from tall eucalypts through mallee woodlands to wide-spaced dry season deciduous specimens as well as a small rainforest grove. The collection includes extensive plantings of South West species. The World Collection has also a diverse range of genera. Many beautiful exotic favourites are represented alongside rare and unusual trees. In particular, there are forty different species of Oak growing (Genus Quercus).

Since the decision by the Board of Kings Park in Perth to focus on increasing its natural bush, Golden Valley has become the most diverse botanic collection of trees in Western Australia. Therefore, the botanical project is of significance at local, regional, State and national levels. Across all 60 hectares, the volunteers fully adhere to organic practices when planting and tending to this Arboretum. [However, please note that PaWS uses a discrete mapping process to apply herbicide to identified invasive weeds to ensure the preservation of the arboretum. Some pathways in the World Collection are sprayed once a year, for health and safety purposes, to reduce the likelihood of tripping and to increase the visibility of snakes/wildlife].

Heritage Listing
In 2001 Golden Valley Tree Park was given a permanent entry on the Register of Heritage Places protected under the Heritage of Western Australia Act 1990. "Golden Valley, with its natural topography, creek, the homestead and early cottage form a significant cultural landscape. The inter war tree plantings and subsequent arboretum plantings have significant landscape value." (Heritage Council Assessment Document p.1)
In 2014 the Tree Park was listed in the Directory of Australian Botanic Gardens.

History of Golden Valley Tree Park
The land comprising the Park was formerly two farming properties, Golden Valley whose homestead was built in the 1880's, and Yungerup, which was settled in 1898. The spring at Yungerup was a favoured hunting site for Noongar people, according to Balya Balinga, the Aboriginal man after whom Balingup was named. The property name denotes this story through a misspelling of 'yonger' meaning kangaroo in the Nyungar language. (Miss Olwen Cleveland pers. comm.)

In the late 1970's the two properties were acquired by the then Forests Department for the establishment of pine plantations. However, the Shire of Donnybrook-Balingup intervened in this intention by announcing a two-kilometre zone around the townsite of Balingup to protect the town from further encroachment of plantations. It was a very well supported community concern at the time and the subject of various lively public meetings. To resolve this land management dispute between the Shire and the State Government department, the then Minister for Forests, the Hon David Wordsworth, agreed in 1980 to a community proposal that this parcel of land should become an arboretum in government ownership and in partnership with the Balingup Progress Association. See Chrissy Sharp's interview as to how this evolved. Later the dedicated function of managing GVTP was devolved to the specially created GVTP Inc.

The arboretum proposal was based on the significant landscape and heritage attributes and exotic tree plantings that were already established on site, particularly by the Cleveland family. The establishment of the park resolved the dispute between the Shire and the State Department and Balingup had a community-managed arboretum, on land owned by the State Government. These arrangements have persisted to this day with significant investment in the project by the relevant Department and the community.

Anniversary milestones, 25th in 2005 and 35th in 2015, have been recognised and celebrated with wonderful events at the Park which brought together many supporters and dignitaries. Suitably, trees have been planted and plaques dedicated to various individuals and organisations who have contributed so generously to the success of the Park over such a long period of time. We look forward to our forty fifth anniversary in 2025.

Community Support for the Arboretum
Golden Valley has received extraordinary support from Balingup locals and from many others further afield. People support the Park financially through annual subscription to the "Friends of the Park". Many have sponsored trees there, more regularly walk in the Park, and significant numbers perform an impressively large number of hours of voluntary work in the Park averaging over 2000 hours per annum.

Each year community busy-bees plant trees and perform other land management tasks. For many years, an annual Community Spring Picnic has brought locals together join in celebrations of the Tree Park including beautiful ephemeral spring art and processions with maypole dancing often performed in partnership with the Balingup Primary School. These various activities all involve significant and sustained volunteer input.

Two founding members of our GVTP Inc. Management Committee have been involved in the Park since its inception, another member has heritage links with the property and most Committee members have been involved for some years. New members are always welcome. All members bring passion, skills and commitment to their role. In December 2018, Balingup locals, Dr Chrissy Sharp and Andrew Thamo, were recognised by Parks and Wildlife Services for their near 40 years of volunteering, service and commitment to GVTP when they were jointly awarded the 2018 "Volunteer of the Year" Award by the Minister for Environment.

Economic Role of the Park
Balingup has very limited local economic activity. The role of primary industry has declined in our district. Without other major industries the Balingup economy increasingly centres on tourism. There are many small-scale tourism operators such as bed and breakfast accommodation providers, art and craft outlets and cafes. The central attraction of Balingup is its scenic landscape hosting its imaginative events like the Small Farm Field Day in April and the Medieval Festival in August, and of course Golden Valley Tree Park, which provides an important all year tourism venue for visitors.

The central role of the Park in the local tourism-led economy is the reason why the Balingup Progress Association and the Shire promote Balingup as the "Arboretum Town." Golden Valley is considered "arguably the most outstanding attraction in the Blackwood Valley."(Scoop Traveller Mag. 2009)

The Shire of Donnybrook-Balingup constructed a 1.5km walk track between the town and the Park. There has also been a substantial increase in annual visitors, from an estimated 10,000 in 2004 to close to 60,000 in 2017. A major upgrade in 2005 of visitor infrastructure at the Park funded by the Federal Government significantly boosted visitation. This included the construction of three new information shelters, the identification of hundreds more trees with engraved plaques, and six new walks at the park, three in the Australian Collection and three in the World Collection.

Further facilities and upgrades including new facilities in the Australian Collection, have since enhanced the Tree Park's reputation as a tourist destination. Walkers on the Bibbulman Track enjoy the facilities as they traverse the Park. The upgraded facilities also provide a modest income stream for the Park's maintenance through being hired out for events. The investment of the Shire, the State Government through regional grants and PaWS's ongoing contribution, and the Commonwealth Government are all indicative of the local, regional and State significance of the Tree Park.

Management Activities
Although more trees are planted every year, 2009 and 2012 saw the biggest tree planting in some time. 1250 West Australian species were planted by over forty volunteers on 21st June 2009. This planting included all ten Mallet species from the Wheat belt plus Flat-topped Yate and a grove of Salmon Gums.

In 2012 nearly one thousand WA Gimlets joined the collection through the support of the Dahl Trust. These new plantings can be found on the Hill Cairn Walk which also takes in a grove of WA Mallees and other rare WA species including Tingle. In 2017 a collection of WA sheoaks were added.

Management of the Park involves recurrent and regular maintenance activities, tree plantings and fund raising for arbour work, infrastructure and facilities via grants, sponsorships, donations and venue hire. GVTP Inc., plays an ongoing educational outreach in managing this arboretum of national and international significance. For example, data is maintained on all plantings, each species is labeled in the field, talks on tree topics & guided walks are organised. A new Park Management Plan is in progress and the formal gazettal of the land as a reserve is in progress.

Park Patron
In 2016, Brian de Garis, Emeritus Professor of History and Balingup district resident, agreed to take over as Park Patron. Brian, and his wife Jenny, bought a small property at Balingup in 1981 and spent innumerable weekends and holidays there over the decades while still working in Perth. Brian took up the role of Park Patron following the sad death of our inaugural Patron, Emeritus Professor Geoffrey Bolton.
Read more about Brian.
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