Golden Valley Tree Park - Balingup
IntroductionGolden Valley Tree Park is a sixty hectare arboretum, set in steep rural countryside 1.5km south of Balingup. It is managed by an incorporated association. The land is freehold title held in the name of the Executive Director of the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) and is scheduled to be formally gazetted as a reserve under the Conservation and Land Management Act. The Park is open daily. 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 CollectionGolden 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 one thousand 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 seeks to showcase 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 group. 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 senior botanic collection of trees in Western Australia. Therefore the botanical project is of local, regional and State significance.
Across all 60 hectares, the volunteers fully adhere to organic practices when planting and tending to this Arboretum. [However please note that the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) uses a discrete mapping process to apply herbicide to identified invasive 'Blackberry' and 'Thistle' to ensure the preservation of the arboretum. 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 ListingIn 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. I quote “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)
History of Golden Valley Tree ParkThe land comprising the Park was formerly two farming properties, namely 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 Nyungar 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 Minister for Forests, 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 newly formed Balingup Progress Association (later devolved to a dedicated incorporated association Golden Valley Tree Park 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. Thus the park was established, resolving the dispute between the Shire and the State Department. So Balingup had a community-managed arboretum, on land owned by the Department of Parks and Wildlife. These arrangements have persisted to this day and both DEC and the community have invested significantly in the project.
On the 22nd July 2005 the WA Governor Lt-General John Sanderson and his wife visited the Park and planted two ceremonial oak trees to commemorate the achievement of the twenty-fifth anniversary milestone since establishment of the Park. Mrs Sanderson, as State Patron of the CWA, planted a tree donated by the Balingup branch of the Country Women’s Association, who also provided the morning tea. Shire President Cr Bruce Hearman attended and spoke at the ceremony.
Community Support for the ArboretumGolden Valley has received extraordinary support from Balingup locals. Many have sponsored trees there, more regularly walk in the Park, and significant numbers do voluntary work there. Last year alone there were five community busy-bees to plant trees, and perform other land management tasks. At the annual Community Spring Picnic 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 volunteer input.
Sixty people volunteered over 2000 hours of work in 2012-13 and in June 2014 twenty five people attended a busy bee organised by the Balingup Lions. Three members of our GVTP Inc committee have been involved in the Park since its inception, another member has heritage links with the property, and all other Committee members have been involved for some years.
Economic Role of the ParkBalingup 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 a lot of small-scale tourism operators such as bed and breakfast accommodation providers, craft outlets, cafes and so forth. However the central attraction of Balingup is its scenic landscape, 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 the desperately needed 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.” and Golden Valley is considered “arguably the most outstanding attraction in the Blackwood Valley.”(Scoop Traveller Mag. 2009)
The Shire of Donnybrook-Balingup has constructed a 1.5km walk track between the town and the Park. There has also been a substantial increase in visitors, from an estimated 10,000 in 2004 to 20,000 in 2013 due to the 2005 upgrade of visitor facilities and increased promotion. This major upgrade of visitor infrastructure at the Park 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. These visitor services have been funded under the Federal Government’s Regional Assistance Package.
The investment of the Shire, the State Government through the Dept of Parks and Wildlife, and the Commonwealth Government are all indicative of the local, regional and State significance of the Tree Park.
Current Management ActivitiesAlthough 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.
GVTP are seeking to take over the Balingup water supply dam for Park use, which is just upstream of the Park, when it is decommissioned by the Water Corporation in circa 2017. Currently a new Park Management Plan is being drafted. This new plan intends to accompany the formal gazettal of the land.
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. Because of that Brian has had an association with the Golden Valley Tree Park more or less from the beginning which has deepened since coming to live full time in the area in 2007. 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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