Gungahlin’s main water feature and surrounds are looking shabby and its ageing facilities not up to scratch, says local resident John Beagle.
Still active at 89, Mr Beagle and his wife live at the Grove Retirement Village in Ngunnawal, and they have noticed how the condition of Yerrabi Pond has deteriorated.
He has launched a Legislative Assembly petition calling on the government to fix the Yerrabi Pond Recreation Area, used by thousands of Gungahlin residents.
He also wants to establish a Friends of Yerrabi Pond organisation, based on other ‘Friends’ models, to drive the process and draw support from the community.
”Unlike Lake Burley Griffin, and Lake Ginninderra, which are well maintained and improved on a continuing basis, Yerrabi Pond has languished,” the petition says.
Mr Beagle said areas are overgrown with weeds, the water quality of the pond is poor and toilet facilities are inadequate for the growing numbers of people the government acknowledges are using the area.
Yerrabi Pond was established in 1999 and since then there has been explosive population growth in Gungahlin, where 80,000 now reside. Mr Beagle said this would soon increase to 90,000.
The petition calls for the government to aid and support the establishment of ‘The Friends of Yerrabi Pond Association’, upgrade the areas around the Pond that are overgrown with weeds and bushes, and provide more toilet and handwashing facilities, particularly at the children’s playground on the western side.
It also wants more signs, particularly on shared pathways concerning rights of pedestrians, and instructions for people to dispose of dog droppings responsibly.
It says these improvements would allow many more older users to walk around the Pond because of a western toilet.
Mr Beagle said many families shunned the playground because there were no toilets, and the only toilets on the other side of the Pond were often out of order.
He said people were leaving dog droppings on the path and surrounds, and even if they have bags there were not enough bins.
“People have seen swans and other birdlife caught up with bags of dog droppings,” he said.
Mr Beagle said Yerrabi Pond was vital to the thousands of people living in apartments who did not have gardens.
He said the site needed a master plan so the work was not piecemeal, and he hoped community groups and businesses would get on board, not just government
”Within two years we should have meaningful change at Yerrabi Pond with or without support from government,” Mr Beagle said.
”There are a lot of pro bono groups, retired people with skills, and businesses that can see the advantage of making this place more attractive.”
Mr Beagle said he was working with the Gungahlin Community Council, Rotary and other groups on the project.
Labor MLA Michael Pettersson has sponsored the petition but it has cross-party support, with fellow Gungahlin MLAs Liberal Leanne Castley and Green Andrew Braddock also backing it.
A spokesperson for City Services Minister Chris Steel said all of the ACT’s lakes were cleaned at least four times a year but did not address the issue of toilet facilities.
The spokesperson said that at Yerrabi Pond ribbon weed was commonly mistaken as overgrown vegetation but was in fact an advantageous water plant which filters nutrients from the water and catches sediment flowing past it, as well as providing fish habitat and food for many water bird species.
In 2020 a new nature play space was constructed complemented by a colourful mural painted on the toilet block wall which tells a story about the wildlife found in the nearby waterways.
“The Government will consider the feedback provided by the community from the petition to inform any future improvements to Yerrabi Pond foreshore and recreation areas,” the spokesperson said.
For more information about the Fix Yerrabi Pond Recreation Area petition, visit the ACT Legislative Assembly website.