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Narnungga Park in the West Parklands

Home > Adelaide > Walks | School Holidays | Parks | Dog Friendly | Cycling
by Dave Walsh (subscribe)
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Published December 28th 2012
When is a forest not a forest?
sustainable living, urban forest, parklands, Adelaide, Narnungga, DPTI
Lost in the Urban Forest

When SA Water relocated to their new 6 star rated green building in Victoria Square, they were able to relinquish their depot at Thebarton which had been in the West Parklands since 1879.

The depot had been located at the western end of Narnungga Park, which (I later discovered) extends as far as West Terrace and is divided by the main southern and interstate railway lines.

The Department of Planning, Transport & Infrastructure (DPTI) was given the challenge of remediating the site and transforming it back into public parklands before handing it back to the Adelaide City Council for the long term.

sustainable living, urban forest, parklands, Adelaide, Narnungga, DPTI
I Can't See the Forest For the Trees

DPTI recently held an open day to showcase the results of their efforts, and the park is now open to the public. From their website:

Narnunnga Park 25, a newly restored 5.5 hectare section of Park Lands at Thebarton, will be open this weekend for the community to enjoy. The restoration has transformed the former SA Water Depot site into a sustainable urban forest.

Unfortunately the park name was spelt incorrectly in the public invitation, no address or directions to the park were provided, and no contact information was available. I guess at least a lizard or two made it for the official opening?

A DPTI spokesperson subsequently refused to tell me whether anybody at all attended the Open Day, which was advertised on their website and in the Sunday Mail.

sustainable living, urban forest, parklands, Adelaide, Narnungga, DPTI
Lone Distinguished Guest @ Narnungga Open Day

After spending a pleasant hour or so wandering the east end of Narnungga Park and seeing nothing resembling what was disclosed in the publicity blurb, my dog and I returned home to do some more detective work. We finally agreed to return the following day and explore the promised urban forest that we now believed to be at the west end of Narnungga Park.

Driving slowly along Port Road, in case I missed my prize, I saw nothing to herald the promised sylvan land, so I turned into James Congdon Drive and stopped to explore.

sustainable living, urban forest, parklands, Adelaide, Narnungga, DPTI
The Linear Creek

My dog was quite distressed by a lack of tree trunks, and I was more than a little perturbed too. But on closer examination I did discover many plants around 20-30 cm tall - so we decided to venture further afield as I muttered Mighty oaks from little acorns grow under my breath.

Should one need to lie down to see an urban forest?

sustainable living, urban forest, parklands, Adelaide, Narnungga, DPTI
Restored Gates and Palms

Crossing a dry creek bed led us to an imposing pair of gates, which I believe had once adorned the SA Water entrance and have since been restored by school children. They were overshadowed by a couple of mature palm trees, which I imagine may be the remains of SA Water's garden.

sustainable living, urban forest, parklands, Adelaide, Narnungga, DPTI
Street Art or Public Art?

Walking down to the rail lines disclosed some evidence of street art, although like the rest of the site, there was no signage to indicate who funded or was responsible for it.

sustainable living, urban forest, parklands, Adelaide, Narnungga, DPTI
Tent Poles of Public Art?

A little further along were a number of poles, I wondered could they perhaps the beginnings of a future tent embassy? It clearly is a strategic location with quick access to tram and interstate rail services, while at the same time benefiting from the proximity to security at SA Police's Thebarton Barracks.

A DPTI spokesperson later dismissed my fantasy and clarified that these poles are in fact a work of public art commissioned by the Adelaide City Council.

sustainable living, urban forest, parklands, Adelaide, Narnungga, DPTI
Gunzelling at Narnungga

The high ground abutting the railway line gives a good view of suburban train movements. While not threatening the Jack Watkins Reserve reserve's unique claim to be Mount Islington - a great place to watch freight trains, it may be enough to attract the odd trainspotter.

sustainable living, urban forest, parklands, Adelaide, Narnungga, DPTI
Southern End of Narnungga Park

At the southern end of Narnungga I was unsure whether the park had been craftily planted to look like an overgrown suburban block, or whether the gardeners just hadn't done that bit yet. What do you think?

After intensive hunting and Googling, with just a little haranguing of innocent public servants, I finally obtained a document which describes the vision for Narnungga Park. If you strip out the gobbledegook in the second paragraph, it actually sounds pretty interesting.

Essentially the plan is to harvest stormwater from nearby roads, create waterways leading to a wetland and underground storage, and to re-use the water to maintain the plants in the park. It's all about sustainable living.

sustainable living, urban forest, parklands, Adelaide, Narnungga, DPTI
Future Watercourse

It's pretty exciting stuff. There are even cycle and pedestrian paths, so Narnungga will be useful to people, as well as a recreational area in the future. Just don't expect too much at present.

I understand that Adelaide City Council will be providing shelters, BBQ facilities, bins, tables and seating next year. In the meantime if you want some of those facilities you can find tennis courts, shelter, bins, tables and seating (but no toilets) just off West Terrace in the eastern portion of Narnungga Park.

sustainable living, urban forest, parklands, Adelaide, Narnungga, DPTI
Narnungga Park East

For more information about the history of Narnungga Park, see this Adelaide City Council publication. For DPTI photos of the project, see here. Just be cautious to distinguish fact from fantasy - what appears to be a clear aerial view of a forest has some very fine print in the corner!

The Government deserves congratulations for returning some of the parklands back to their proper state. DPTI's landscaper architects deserve kudos for the sustainable design.

It's a pity that the project implementation was marred by hyperbole, a blurring of truth, and antics that more properly belong in an episode of Yes Minister.
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Why? See an urban forest. Maybe
When: Anytime
Where: Corner Port Rd and James Congdon Drive, Adelaide
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Very interesting Dave - and a welcome return of parklands. I just wish governments didn't always think such acts entitled them to take park lands elsewhere (as with Adelaide High School expansion and the new hospital
by marcu (score: 1|21) 2973 days ago
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