By Cam Lucadou-Wells
City of Berwick former mayor Syd Pargeter describes it as possibly his last campaign for the public good.
The 88-year-old has been hitting the phones on a daily basis to restore a disused Harkaway quarry to a spectacular park.
The basalt quarry, owned and run by Hanson Quarries, has ceased operation for several years.
Despite being fenced off, the quarry – which has become a lake surrounded by stark mining excavations – had become a “magnet” for dumping cars and rubbish and “lawlessness”, Mr Pargeter said.
He also worries for the safety of young people ‘bombing’ from cliffs into the lake despite submerged cars and sheet metal lurking in the waters.
Mr Pargeter said the ‘Harkaway Water Park’ could include an equestrian trail linking Noack and King roads, a landscaped artesian lake for deep divers and a last-resort fire refuge.
The park – which Mr Pargeter hopes will comprise up to 10 per cent of the massive site – ought not cause great expense to ratepayers, he argues.
The land would be donated to Casey Council as public open space as part of any future development, he said.
Hanson was also legally obliged to rehabilitate the land at its expense prior to hand-over.
“It has to be given to the people,” Mr Pargeter says.
“It doesn’t have to be bought.”
The outcome ought to rival another majestically-transformed former quarry, Wilson Botanic Park in Berwick, he said.
“Harkaway has got the wrong end of things for a while. We pay big rates and get nothing for it.”
Resident and horse-rider Gayle Joyce said the equestrian link through the quarry had been desired for 30 years.
It would provide an increasingly rare off-road horse-riding track, shared by mountain-bikers and walkers.
“The equestrian community’s access to riding areas is diminishing.
“As everything develops around us, we have to retain these areas.”
Rosalie Counsell, a member of Green Wedges Coalition and Save the Casey Foothills Association, also supported the idea.
Councillor Rosalie Crestani said the vision had great merit, subject to negotiations between Casey Council and Hanson about the site’s handover.
“I’d love to see that site used for a community area and to apply a treatment like Wilson Botanic Park.”
Cr Crestani said the prospect of a recycling facility on the site was “not on the table”.
According to a Casey Council landscape assessment of the Casey foothills area in 2014, the quarry had low landscape value compared to Lysterfield Lake due to its manmade “desolation”.
However, there was potential for its “rugged” topography to be a “potentially valued area”.
Casey city planning manager Nicola Ward said the council was preparing its Casey Foothills Green Wedge Management Plan, which would consider issues such as the future of the quarry.
It would also consider public open space, equestrian trails and bushfire risk management.
“Council will invite comment from the community at various stages throughout the development of the plan.
“Council is not aware of any plans to turn the Harkaway Quarry into a water park.”
Ms Ward said the council’s equestrian strategy recommended trail links through the quarry but was subject to discussions with Hanson.
The quarry had been found unsuitable by the Municipal Emergency Management Planning Committee as a fire refuge due to significant fall hazards, undulating terrain and vegetated access points, she said.