Backward Glance – The Churinga Tree Walk Committee and Churinga Park

You might ask, what and who were the Churinga Tree Walk Committee?

The Churinga Tree Walk Committee was founded by two inspirational locals – Maroochy Shire Councillor, Elizabeth Daniels and an entrepreneurial business woman, Betts-Ann Coates.

Mrs Coates was the founder of the much-loved Boolarong café and restaurant, which was the place to be seen on the Coast at the time.

While dining at the Boolarong you may have seen Sean Connery and his wife Diane Cilento, who were frequent diners when on the Coast.

The Churinga Tree Walk Committee’s charter was to plant as many trees as possible between Point Cartwright and Point Arkwright on the Sunshine Coast, to beautify and combat erosion to the beaches and sand dunes.

During their very active history, beginning in 1969, the committee members planted more than 5000 trees. They were also instrumental in building a rock wall on the northern edge of Churinga Park after it was devastated by Cyclone Wanda in 1974.

The photographs of beach erosion during March 1936, when cyclonic conditions brought enormous waves which eroded large sections of the foreshore in Mooloolaba and Alexandra Headland, gives us an understanding of the havoc mother nature can wreak.

During this storm the erosion almost reached the clubs boat shed door, the timber runway was lost and the lookout tower was washed away.

In 1957, cyclonic conditions stripped sand from Maroochydore Beach and erosion endangered the foundations of the clubhouse, which had only been officially opened three months earlier.

1967 was another disastrous year for cyclonic conditions. Metres of sand were eroded from the Coast’s beaches.

More recent erosion has been reduced by the foresight of this group of environmental fighters.

As well as having the support of both local and state governments, their fundraising social events were very popular and attracted cash donations from as far away as Ireland.

In recognition of the committee’s efforts, Mr David Barbe-Baker accepted an invitation to deliver a series of lectures in 1978.

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Mr David Barbe-Baker was a world-recognised authority on re-afforestation and was the founder of the Men of Trees movement. He was involved in many projects including a re-afforestation project on the edge of the Sahara Desert.

Parkland just south of The Corner at Alexandra Headland was once an unofficial camping ground, but in 1972 was resumed for a Port and Harbour Reserve and a navigation beacon was erected.

This park was named Churinga Park by the Maroochy Shire Council in recognition of the efforts of the Churinga Tree Walk Committee.

It was officially opened in 1974 by Sir Francis Nicklin, the former premier of Queensland, who was also a patron of the committee.

The Churinga-Alex Bluff Park now forms part of the very popular coastal pathway.

Of the thousands of locals and tourists who walk along the path, how many realise that there are a number of significant commemorative sites within the park?

The Chain of Beacons tree commemorates the Maroochy Shire’s participation in the Bi-centennial National Chain of Beacons. The tree is planted on the ashes of Maroochy’s beacon.

The Captain Cook Bicentennial Cairn is a dedication to Captain Cook’s navigation skills as he sailed past Alexandra Headland on his discovery voyage to chart the east coast of Australia.

It was erected by the Alexandra Progress Association on May 17, 1970.

The Korean War Memorial was designed and constructed by the Sunshine Coast Chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association and it is unique in that the plaques not only remember those who died in the conflict, but those who have subsequently died.

The central memorial rock was gifted by the Korean Army and was sent by ship for the dedication by Col Sam Gon Kim of the South Korean Army.

The Australian War Dog Memorial commemorates the 11 tracker dogs who were used by the Australian Army in the Vietnam War.

Army policy at the time stated the dogs would not return home, so after much debate the surviving 10 dogs were offered to Australian or European families living in Saigon.

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Service dogs from other conflicts are also commemorated.

Pettigrew’s Q 150 GPS Survey Beacon was built by the Surveyors and Spatial Sciences Institute as a dedication to William Pettigrew who explored and mapped the coast north of Moreton Bay to the Mary River.

William Pettigrew (1825-1906), who migrated to Australia from Scotland in January 1849, worked first as a farmer and then trained as a surveyor.

He was a leading entrepreneur and contributed significantly to the early growth and development of the Sunshine Coast.

This beacon provides the public with a means to check the accuracy of their various navigation devices as it depicts an accurate latitude and longitude guide.

The latest addition is the HMAS Brisbane Mast Memorial.

This is a memorial to the ship and crew of HMAS Brisbane, a destroyer, which saw tours of duty in the Vietnam and Gulf Wars.

The memorial points to the position where the ship was scuttled to create an artificial reef that has become one of the world’s premier dive sites.

When walking, running or cycling through the park, take some time to appreciate the environmental and forward-thinking efforts of the Churinga Tree Walk Committee. Their legacy still lives on today.

Also check out the memorials that represent historical events which have been part of our community for years.

It is rare that such a small piece of parkland can have such a varied and often unknown history.

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.

Image details

Hero image: View from the shelter at Alexandra Bluff Park, looking south east over.

Image 1: ‘Boolarong’ Beach Milk Bar, Alexandra Headland, ca 1962.

Image 2: Local surfers checking the surf at Alexandra Headland, 1982.

Image 3: Maroochydore Beach during cyclonic conditions, April 1967.

Image 4: View from Alexandra Headland near the Buderim Avenue intersection showing the coastline at Mooloolaba and Point Cartwright in the distance, 1963.

/Public Release. View in full here.