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Black Gully Festival  demonstrates community interest in improving reserve

Despite the threat of wet weather in the morning around 2000 people attended the Black Gully Music Festival on Saturday 12 November and enjoyed a range of activities including a live music concert, arts workshops and installations, a maker’s market and a range of other activities in and around NERAM.

The high level of participation and great family atmosphere in the Black Gully Music Festival demonstrated the need for a masterplan for the Newling-Moran Reserve as public parkland according to the New England Regional Art Museum.

“The huge turnout and level of participation by a wide cross section of the community demonstrated that there is a lot of interest in this precinct as a location for a range of cultural, sports and recreational activities,” said Robert Heather, Art Museum Director. “Visitors were very impressed with the work which has gone into restoring the Black Gully Creek by the Friends of NERAM working with the Armidale Tree Group, Landcare and Ducat’s Earthmoving and could see the potential for further improvement.”

“However the overall site still needs improved infrastructure in order to address issues such as accessibility, safety, carparking and wayfinding,” he said.  “The precinct on Kentucky Street is home to the region’s most significant cultural and tourism destinations – New England Regional Art Museum and the Armidale and Region Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place – and yet it doesn’t even have a footpath on the street linking the two facilities and nowhere  for tourists and ‘grey nomads’ to park their RVs and caravans.”

“There are a range of community facilities such as the UNE Museum of Education, Gymnastics Club, community radio station, Family History Group and the Community Garden on the site as well as sporting facilities such as the Armidale Rugby Club and scouts hall which could be linked up with walking paths, exercise or cycling tracks,” he said. “It would be great if these could also connect with the Black Gully Reserve and lagoons between Kentucky Street and Mann Street to create a cultural, environmental, sports and recreation zone for this side of town stretching from Taylor Street to Dangar Street.”

“At present there are two new retirement complexes being built in Taylor Street for which the Moran Reserve and the Black Gully Reserve will be their closest green spaces and yet the elderly residents and their families won’t be able to easily access them because of the lack of basic infrastructure such as walking paths.”

“We would like to see a masterplan developed which brings together the resident organisations (including UNE, NERAM and ACCKP) and other stakeholders with the Council and Crown Lands to address these issues, to look at short and long term solutions for this site and a plan of action for moving forwards to make this area a thriving community resource.”

“Urgent access and safety issues such as pathways, pedestrian crossings, carparking, lighting, rubbish bins, footbridges, wayfinding and street signage need to be addressed while future planning could also include community facilities such as toilets, picnic tables, barbecues, fitness and exercise stations, children’s playgrounds and event infrastructure like improved staging and ampitheatre style seating for events such as the Black Gully Festival,” he said. “Any masterplan should also include looking at safe railway crossings for pedestrians and cyclists to more effectively connect the community on other side of the railway with the centre of town.”

The historic Newling-Moran Reserve is based around the original playing fields of the Armidale Teacher’s College which included football ovals, tennis courts, basketball and cricket grounds. It is named after C.B. Newling the first Principal of the Armidale Teacher’s College and Michael Moran, the Head of the College’s Department of Physical Education in the 1940s and 50s.

The Newling-Moran Reserve is currently managed as a Crown Reserve with the Armidale Regional Council as Trustee.

 

Photograph of Black Gully Festival by Terry Cooke

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