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Half-baked lake

The original Maddingley Park lake. Photo supplied by Bacchus Marsh Historical Society

By Tina Seirlis

Once described as its best feature, the William Grant Lake was flanked by willows and gardens and sat within Maddingley Park, a destination created through public fundraising and donations by early European settlers to Bacchus Marsh seeking to further advance the town.

Maddingley Park and its maintenance were eventually handed over to Council and sadly by the early 1950s local newspaper reports at the time comment on the lake being unmaintained and overrun with a reed problem. Discussion about the lake’s fate within the Bacchus Marsh Express 15 July 1950 suggested that ‘When the Park was at its best, the lake featured ornamental islets, swans, goldfish, and a rowing boat, making a beautiful picnic setting with happy memories’. A later article from 15 May 1954 stated ‘the lake could be turned into lawns without much expense, and could be done in such a way that the depression could perhaps be made into a lake again at some future time’.  The rest is of course history.

Hopes for the return of the lake have continued to simmer over the years. Recommendations outlined on page 23 of the recently adopted Maddingley Park Masterplan demonstrate that there is continued support for the reinstatement of a lake or wetland. This support was identified via general community survey feedback, along with Friends of Maddingley Park.

Enquiries were made to Council about the difference between the lake and a wetland, how the community responded to the two options during consultation, and the reasons the Masterplan doesn’t include a complete reinstatement of the original lake.

According to Moorabool Shire CEO Derek Madden, the idea of a wetland was raised as on option by a stakeholder during the consultation process.

“The stakeholder feedback also indicated support for the large lawn area as a venue for markets and events. A lake was never considered a viable option, for numerous reasons and therefore it was never presented to the community.”

Mr Madden went on to describe a wetland as a contemporary interpretation of the lake, providing the added benefit of treating stormwater inflows to the Werribee River, and indicated the wetland will have an area of deeper water located centrally away from the accessible edges.

However, those who are pleased to hear that some element of waterway will return to Maddingley Park are recommended not to hold their breath. As outlined within the report’s Staging Plan, item 5.4 includes a lake/wetland to occur within seven to ten years and with a cost yet to be determined. Concepts included within the Report also show the wetland to hold a much smaller footprint than the original lake. As such those envisioning something akin to the lake at Castlemaine Botanic Gardens, if not slightly smaller, may find themselves disappointed with what may eventuate in broadly a decade’s time.

Further enquiries were made about why Council would require up to ten years to return the lake/wetland to Maddingley Park, with Mr Madden suggesting that timings are indicative only.

“The wetland was earmarked as 7-10 years as it was not identified as a high priority as other elements of the masterplan which were identified through the consultation phases. There are likely significant costs and design work involved that will require planning and time.”

It also appears that the outcome of the Masterplan has not necessarily satisfied broader community expectations.

Barb McMillan, President of Bacchus Marsh Historical Society outlined the Society is well aware of the constraints on the Shire.

“… but the Society would like the Park to be re-established in line with its original design and purpose and sees a ‘wetland’ as a poor substitute for a small lake.”

And so, it seems that local residents who had hopes of a place where local children and the young at heart could enjoy the simple but wonderful pleasure of feeding ducks or swans (seeds not bread), will unfortunately still need to travel further afield to destination parks in neighbouring municipalities.

The adopted Maddingley Park Masterplan can be accessed on Council’s website. Residents may wish to familiarise themselves with the content which includes, amongst other things, the intended demolition and replacement of the existing Maddingley Park playground which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year.