Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The Eastern Suburbs, Botany Aquifer

Lost vistas

Act II: Neverland

Last view seen by Elizabeth Street bus passengers before being terminated
Prince Alfred Park was gazetted as a public park in 1865 and an Olympic swimming pool was opened there in 1958. It closed for a time when the lease was linked to Abe Saffron. Then Lord Mayor Frank Sartor wanted to replace it with a parking lot - it was used by residents in Surry Hills and Redfern but lay over the boundary in Sydney City. I had been swimming there four or five times a week but would have no say. When South Sydney was remerged with the City of Sydney all candidates promised to keep the pool.

Sydney Council exhibited plans to redevelop the pool and closed it down, then reopened it for a summer while new plans were developed, then closed it down in 2009 with an expected reopening in March, 2010. The pool finally reopened four weeks ago after a series of redesigns and opening dates. The estimated cost had risen from $10 million to $18 million.

Every drop of rain that falls on the park seeps through to the aquifer that stretches from Surry Hills to Botany Bay and has traditionally been pumped up the water the lawns. The design for the pool placed the pool in a concrete crater, with runoff being collected in a large concrete bunker south of the pool. Vast amounts of CO2 would have been generated building the bunkers and water still has to be pumped from them. The rubble excavated for the bunkers is piled up to form the other side of the crater. The only parts of the original pool retained was the bottom slab of the pool and part of the wall at the deep end.

The park had been one of the few open vistas in the city and the lawns have been used for active recreations such as soccer practice. Now most of the Park is a bog for collecting water for the bunkers - if you stray from the asphalt paths you had better be wearing galoshes.

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