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  • Writer's pictureSerena O'Meley

Reimagining Ruthven - submission on the draft master plan

Updated: Aug 21, 2022

[First published on Facebook on 17 November 2019]

This short submission from Serena O'Meley and Terry Mason is intended to supplement the work which has already been done on the draft Master Plan for Ruthven.


Materials: We remain concerned about the large amount of concrete that is being proposed for the site. The reason that was given to the Community Reference Group for having such extensive concrete pathways was to ensure that the park would be accessible to users of all abilities. Concrete is one of the highest producers of greenhouse gasses in the world. There is, however, an alternative to concrete which could be explored such as an earthen pathway like this one in Ocean Grove, only somewhat narrower to suit the site.

Dan Andrews (9/11/19) on Facebook:

“To some of us, this looks like just another trail through a nature reserve. But look closer. It's an all-abilities track. The old trail was narrow, slippery and uneven – meaning that people in wheelchairs or who use walking aids, families with prams, and people with low or no vision often found it too dangerous to navigate. Now, the new track will mean that everyone can enjoy the Ocean Grove Nature Reserve. It's a great idea – and it exists because the local community thought of it, voted for it, and is building it as part of the Pick My Project program.”

Terry spent six years in the past regularly using a wheelchair and walking sticks. He found earthen pathways to be quite adequate, with the added benefit of not being slippery for the walking sticks in rain, compared with when leaves or grass and other debris falls onto concrete pathways.

Location: We would like to see the layout of pathways at the Southern end retained as it is well-established and leads naturally to the raised area that overlooks the site. The general idea of the layout for the rest of the paths looks fine, though it might be worth trying to map them out before they are laid by keeping in mind the principles of desire lines. The two green metal seats at this end of the park should be retained and refurbished.

Ephemeral wetland

Darebin Nature Trust has recommended that the ephemeral wetland be established earlier in the evolution of the park. If there is going to be earthmoving and disturbance it may as well be done at the same time as concrete removal from the rest of the site.

Zone planning and shelter

Each zone of the park will need a detailed plan and the key issues that need to be kept in mind are shelter from the sun and from wind, especially in the conversation corners and play areas. Whether this could be done with some mounded areas as suggested by DNT or some other way needs further discussion. However, we do not support using rubble from the concrete removal for use in the landscaping - there are enough issues with contamination in Darebin’s parks.

There are some good examples of shelters in the draft Master Plan. This shelter, which Serena found in a park in Epping, is interesting because it is spacious and also has a slat wall towards the end that would protect people from wind. The slat design allows for planting underneath the structure.

Soil issues

Serena recently visited Michael Brennan, the former deputy principal of the former Ruthven Primary School, to give him an update on the Master Planning process for the new park. When the school was newly established (circa 1968) he said they would have to ring a bell so that the children would run indoors when there was blasting of the volcanic rock in the area. The blasting took place so the sewerage system for the new estate near the school could be installed. Similar rock under the Ruthven site may be something that will need to be thought about in relation to water and sewerage for the park. He then told her that the kids would be sent out at playtime with magnets to collect metal out of the cricket pitch. He said they made a few hundred dollars from the collection. Metal?! It turns out that the area was landscaped using foundry sand - a foot or two deep, with a few inches of top soil from the Merri Creek spread on top. This was the first we have heard of it, and we doubt that Darebin Council has done any soil testing. There may be low level contaminants to consider and also the salt content of the sand.

Biodiversity Plan

The site will need a detailed Biodiversity Plan which would usefully be designed in conjunction with Darebin Nature Trust and other groups with specialist expertise. Getting this plan right is critical to the overall project. Spotted gums are listed as a possible tree for the site when 1) there are already spotted gums on the site (which will be retained) and 2) they are not species of local provenance. A suitable alternative from the region would be yellow gums. That spotted gums could have slipped into a Master Plan that promotes indigenous plants is an example of why we need expert input into the Biodiversity Plan. The significance of using species of local provenance is well known for the importance of preserving genetic diversity and is aptly summed up by Connecting Country (Mount Alexander Region) Inc as follows:

“Indigenous species provide habitat for native wildlife and birds and can improve the condition of soils and water. Indigenous plants will generally grow will with little assistance, will be most likely to withstand the prevailing conditions of your site, and over time are likely to begin regenerating themselves.”

We note with concern that Darebin Council has started planting on the nature strips around the park without consulting the people responsible for designing the new park. If the park is going to have an integrated appearance then the nature strips need to be part of the overall design.

Planting should be done from seedlings for two reasons: 1) they are vastly cheaper and can be sourced from several indigenous nurseries such as the one run by nearby La Trobe University; 2) they will quite quickly outstrip more mature trees in terms of height and will be more robust in the long term. Areas that are planted out may need to be fenced off while trees are getting established, due to the possibility of attack by vandals.

The biodiversity plan will need detailed work on the location of flowers so that they are not overlooked in favour of trees and shrubs.

Bike Racks

The worst choice for bike racks for park would be the big, individual metal hoops that are concreted into the ground. They take up a lot space, are imposing and are quite hard to tie a bike up to - especially an electric bike. Ideally it would be a great project to get a bike rack that is also a piece of public art such as the following installation by artists Marianne Lovink and Scott Eunson.

If this is not possible then at least some bike racks with a lower profile than the metal hoops would be good.

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