Thriving community hub at Barkly Square

The Barkly Square Gardens, along with the adjoining Specimen Vale and Britannia Reserve are much-loved community assets located within the heart of the Ballarat East Civic Precinct.

In partnership with BGT Jobs + Training Ballarat, the City of Ballarat is developing an integrated landscape plan and a vision for the site. This can then facilitate a discussion around how the gardens and wider environment can be used in the future.

Community input is now being sought about the public spaces in the area, including the green spaces of Specimen Vale, Britannia Reserve and the Town Hall Gardens.

A Conservation Management Plan has been developed for the area, which outlines the layers of history at the Barkly Street site.

The plan covers the original mining landscape, through to the development of the Ballarat East Town Hall, the subsequent demolition and construction of school buildings and gardens.

Now the community is being asked to help shape the plan and vision for the area, including how the gardens and open space can be used into the future.

BGT Jobs + Training Ballarat is hosting a drop-in session to see the concept plans and hear stories from community members about what this space means to them.

The plans will be launched at The Atrium, next to the Barkly Square Café by 1816 Bakehouse on 20 September from 1pm – 4pm.

Any community interested is invited to attend, view the plans and provide their feedback. The plans will continue to be displayed at Barkly Square until 11 October.

The concept plans show opportunities to have a sensory garden, multipurpose open space, a Chinese garden, walkways, play space, outdoor training spaces, courtyards and an urban food farm.

City of Ballarat Councillor, Belinda Coates said the gardens surrounding Barkly Square are a beautiful asset to Ballarat.

“To be able to hear from the community about what this diverse open space means to them, will allow us to plan for the area to cater to all,” she said.

“The area is a thriving community hub, and the gardens and open space should reflect that.”

Operations Manager, Emma Hart from BGT Jobs + Training Ballarat said the proposed plans show a development of the gardens which will offer something to a wide variety of the community.

“The gardens are a hidden gem, and this is a chance to re-establish a new community destination whilst celebrating the history of the gardens and providing a space for reflection and connection.”

Ballarat East Town Hall Revitilisation Group Representative, Valdi Cham said the gardens were established in 1865 and originally had one curator and five gardeners maintaining the site.

“Currently there are nine volunteers who work in the garden sporadically. Over the past 12 months the volunteers have contributed more than 600 hours to working within the garden,” she said.

“Partnerships have been formed with Federation University Horticultural students and students from St Alipius Primary School.

“Since the groups have undertaken work in the gardens more members of the community appear to be using and enjoying the gardens on a regular basis.”

Barkly Square is home to BGT Jobs + Training Ballarat, who sub-let several of the spaces to local groups such as the Men’s Shed, Wholefood Collective, Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council, the Toy Library and many more.

Barkly Square is now a well-used and thriving community hub, and BGT maintains the gardens and wider grounds with the help of a dedicated group of volunteers.

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