In May 1984 the foreshore development began with a collaboration between the Dongara-Denison Lions Club and the Irwin Shire Council. The foreshore was untidy and with Shire permission the Lions set about improving the area. Over two years the dunes were recontoured and during the first year Lion Jack Hobbs on his D4 dozer levelled the area from the Tamarisk tree for about forty meters towards the northern section towards the roundabout. They carted soil from Lion Fred Burton’s farm then planted couch runners obtained from the mouth of the river, a very labour intensive start to the project.
In 1985 allocation of funds by the Shire of Irwin enabled reticulation to be connected to the Shire water source. Prior to this the area was watered using a garden hose from Bill Foster’s house on the marina, opposite the workings. Bill confirms that his dad Ken Foster spoke about when he watered the grass.
A barrier was required to protect the area from vehicles, and a pine railing fence was selected. Jim Booker, local businessman, gave a project to the Lions which involved clearing the site to build the new Post Office (which in 2023 is now vacant). Colin Broad and Vic Mawer donated the value of the use of machinery amounting to about $900.00 which then allowed Lions to buy pine for the railing, shown in these photographs from the Irwin District Historical Society.
The second year Lion Stuart Chandler pulled a set of harrows with his tractor to complete the levelling. Super phosphate and seed were spread with a top spreader to complete the rest of the area.
Following on over the next few years the Irwin Shire Council allocated $5000 in their annual budget to projects undertaken by the Lions within the development.
The first two shelters were built 1987 along the foreshore, but the size and design was not considered adequate, so Lion Stuart Chandler offered to pay for another shelter and if approved by the Council, he was to be reimbursed. The new design was adopted, the original two shelters altered, and as per a plan navigated by both the Shire and the Lions, more shelters were built. Barbecues and barbecue shelters were installed and the Norfolk Island trees planted. The material was supplied by the Shire of Irwin grant funds and the construction of the shelters and tree planting was undertaken by the Lions. Unfortunately, vandals damaged the shelters at times which has required ongoing maintenance by the Lions carried out until more recent years and is now overseen by the Shire.
In the 1980s when our busy Lions were at work, Occupational Health and Safety rules weren’t as strict as the present times. Through The International Association of Lions, Clubs have always paid for Liability Insurance and encouraged the appointment of a Safety Officer. The advised criteria for a Lion to be eligible as a Safety Officer – “the main requirements for this position are common sense and an eye for detail”.
The following photos show the equipment used to be the order of the day and happy to say no loss of time injuries occurred. The milk crates and ladders were all very safe; no hard hats or High Vis were required and among the workers only one fellow on the roof didn’t wear enclosed boots.
In July 1988 a report was prepared by John B. Fitzhardinge, AO, MBE, LFRAIA, LFRAPI, ED, Architect and Planner for the Irwin Shire Council. The Report was for development of the foreshore in Port Denison and Item 7 on page four reads as follows:-
How gratifying in 2023 to see how the Lions Park was included in that Foreshore Development Plan of 1988, though there are some notable differences. There are no Tuarts, instead Norfolk Island Pines grace the grassed area and along with the shelters provide shade and encourage the community to enjoy the great outdoors. The coin-in-slot BBQ’s were installed in 1991; brickies were Derek Farley and Gary Bovell.
Lion Bob Peck and his Lion Lady Jenny owned the Mitre 10 Store in the Leander Shopping Centre and supplied the Norfolk Island Pine trees planted at the Lions Park and foreshore. The Pecks were in business in the hardware shop for twenty years. Jenny had the honour of being the only non-Lion to read the Lions Code of Ethics at a meeting, reading for Bob who forgot his glasses.
Lion Bob Peck served on the Shire of Irwin Council 1992-1995 and Lion Angus Callander who was the Kailis Fisheries Manager, served 1990-1999. Lion Jim Duncan remarked in his report on, ‘The first ten years’ (page 10) that having Lions members concurrently serving on the Shire Council worked well in forging a great partnership in community development and events. Lion Stuart Chandler was a driving force with most projects and seen in many photos of Lions volunteers at work. Lion Stuart also served on Irwin Shire Council, 1995-2015 and as Shire President from 2009-2015.
The foreshore development has seen many changes over the last forty years, providing the community with a family friendly space which is enjoyed by many. With the passage of time and the proximity to the ocean the original playgrounds have weathered and been replaced.
Modifications to seating and tables have also been necessary to ensure the safety of the public.
Fortunately, the Dongara Denison Lions Club members recorded the projects with stories and photos preserving our history. The Norfolk Island Pines were planted around 1992 by the Lions and provided by the Irwin Shire Council. The original Lions Park sign was removed during development when the Fisherman’s Hall was demolished and 2023 saw the Shire of Irwin install a new modern sign under the direction of Mark Jones, Acting Manager of Operations.
The sign was constructed and donated by the Dongara Men in Sheds Inc., thanks to “Robbo’ Robertson and his team of workers.
The Lions Park is only a small part of the foreshore reserve, designating the area where the Lions commenced the first development of the foreshore and marking a proud achievement in the history of The Dongara Denison Lions Club.
The Dongara Denison Lions Club celebrate their 40th Anniversary on 10th February 2024.