BAG History Group / Beautifying Blackwood
Coromandel Parade 1953
In 2014, the focus of the Blackwood Action Group History Subcommittee’s regular articles was on celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the 1914 Blackwood Magazine.
"The time will come when a noble avenue of elms and pines may constitute the pride of every Blackwood dweller"
In 1914 the district hub of Blackwood was advocating for the integration of new advances in infrastructure while working to maintain and enhance the natural beauty of the area.
The Blackwood and Eden Hills Progress Committee (PC) was appointed in July 1913 to advocate for "general improvements of the district" very similar to the role taken by today's Blackwood Action Group (BAG) and other community organisations.
“Blackwood is beautiful today. But unless care be taken some of the beauty will vanish as time goes on, and, with the erection of new buildings, the trees bordering her roads disappear…" (The Blackwood Magazine, March p50)
When the district's telephone exchange opened for continuous business in 1914 "… a strongly worded complaint as to the reckless way in which the telephone gangs are cutting down timber along the roads…" saw the community request the PC "handle" the situation. (The Blackwood Magazine, Jan p9)
Concern about a reliable water supply was constantly mentioned in the The Blackwood Magazine, as the Sturt River came under stress due to increasing population and the prolonged nationwide drought of 1911 - 1916.
Despite this, the community commenced a significant street tree planting scheme along Coromandel Parade. Following consultation with the Conservator of Forests the popular nineteenth century avenue and park species of cork elms was selected for the western side of Coromandel Parade and stone pines for the east.
Over 40 community members, young and old, male and female, threw themselves into the July tree planting day.
"On one side of the road might be seen a little group of absorbed spectators following up the actual planting … while on the other side bands of busy workmen strove with pick and shovel to make ready the beds … and yet others dashed about in a cart delivering soil food for the vegetable babes" (The Blackwood Magazine, Aug p179)
None of these trees survive today and perhaps did not even survive their first summer in the drought. Over time, road and building developments combined with the harsh natural conditions on the Blackwood ridge and the unsuitable species originally selected ended this 1914 vision.
1930’s Arbor Day street tree planting projects were to prove more successful with Blackwood Primary School children planting the oaks we today see flourishing on Gladstone Road and the prunus on Brighton Parade.
For individuals home gardening was an important pastime with the annual Blackwood Floral and Industrial Exhibition providing an opportunity to display their flowers which were almost exclusively European, although Edwin Ashby of Wittunga was passionately raising public awareness of the beauty of Australian flora.
The Blackwood community has continued to value and advocate for open space and street plantings. In the 1980s community action resulted in the creation of the Waite Street Reserve and today community members advocate for the further development of this site while verges have been greatly improved by colourful flower plantings and streetscaping undertaken by The City of Mitcham and BAG volunteers.