Waterway wildlife reserve to open for public use

A 20-year plan to open up a large new wetlands park for nature-based activities in Geelong’s south has been adopted by Council.

The Sparrovale Wetlands Master Plan will guide protection and enhancement measures for a 500-hectare site in Charlemont, adjacent to the Lake Connewarre State Game Reserve.

The Master Plan aims to ensure environmental protection, a staged opening of the wetlands park and the creation of a regional gateway to the Lake Connewarre area.

The City acquired the land in 2019 to provide an end-of-drainage solution for the stormwater from the Armstrong Creek and Horseshoe Bend development precincts.

With extensive areas of flood-prone open space, diverse native vegetation and natural wetland, the City is also aiming to support a sustainable wetland and waterway wildlife reserve.

Mayor Stephanie Asher said the 20-year Master Plan provided clear short-term and long-term objectives and actions for the site.

“This is one of our most exciting and innovative environmental sustainability projects,” Mayor Asher said.

“We have a rare opportunity to create a unique parkland ecosystem that will protect the area’s biodiversity and cater to a range of passive recreational and educational activities.

“It will also increase access for water-based activities, such as fishing, canoeing and kayaking.

“Having been a private farm for many decades, Sparrovale’s environmental and cultural values are largely unknown.

“The site has the potential to provide a gateway to the internationally-significant Lake Connewarre Ramsar Area and become another of our high-class nature-based attractions.”

The plan contains three distinct phases.

Phase 1: Until 2022 – complete major drainage infrastructure works, pest plant and animal control, protect threatened species and prepare a revegetation plan;

Phase 2: 2022 to 2030: establish public parkland and facilities; continue pest plant and animal control and revegetation; provide public walking access through to the Barwon River and informal access around the wetlands; and

Phase 3: 2030 to 2040: connect the Barwon River Trail to Geelong, upgrade walking tracks, complete revegetation, and promote Sparrovale Wetlands as a key tourism, environmental, cultural and recreational site.

Cr Jim Mason, Chair of the Environment portfolio said the ultimate vision for the area would allow the community to enjoy a variety of light recreational uses.

“Improving connections to walking and cycling links, including the popular Barwon River Trail, is a key priority,” he said.

“You’ll be able to enjoy the relatively short walk to the river or take a one-hour return journey around the wetlands.

“Other nature-based tourism and recreational activities will also be available, such as bird watching and fishing.

“With migratory birds travelling from as far afield as Alaska and Siberia to feed and rest on the wetlands, these plans for the area will allow more people to view and appreciate these species and their amazing resilience.”

The Master Plan also identifies the potential to build a regional wetland interpretation centre and lookout structure, to promote the wetlands and Lake Connewarre Ramsar area.

The adoption of the Master Plan follows an allocation of $582,366 in the 2021-22 Budget to complete the stormwater infrastructure and a range of site management works.

This includes starting construction on a shared trail at the western end of the site.

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