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Reviving Penrose Park

Monday, 25th March, 2013

Author and historian Paul Armstrong (left) and businessman Gary Radford with copies of Mr Armstrong’s new book, ‘Memories of Penrose Park’. Author and historian Paul Armstrong (left) and businessman Gary Radford with copies of Mr Armstrong’s new book, ‘Memories of Penrose Park’.

By Andrew Robertson

The once popular Penrose Park should again become a favourite gathering place for Broken Hill families to rest and play, says the author of a book about the park.

BH historian and author Paul Armstrong said the park has been a playground for generations of locals and remained an important part of the city's social and cultural history.

And he believes that it can again become as popular as it was in the past when scores of residents would travel there en masse by train, bus and car for mine picnics.

"It was such an important social place for the whole town," Mr Armstrong said.

"It's important that we keep our social history and cultural history going."

Mr Armstrong, who has his own memories of "wonderful picnic days", said for this to happen more locals needed to use the park and consider becoming volunteers.

He said while the Trust was doing good work it needed an injection of youth.

"They can't do the heavy physical stuff anymore," he said. "It needs the younger ones to come on board."

Mr Armstrong's book, 'Memories of Penrose Park', details the history of the park including the people involved in its formation and upkeep.

He has given the book, which took 12 months to complete and features many photos dating back to the 1800s, to the Penrose Park Trust so it can receive the proceeds from its sale.

A book launch will be held at the Mint Art Gallery in Chloride Street on April 11.

Businessman Gary Radford, who wrote the forward for Mr Armstrong's book, has also thrown his support behind the Trust and wants others to do the same.

Mr Radford's family has a long association with the park which, he said, was a wonderful asset built "by hand" using funds from the mining companies.

"The major input was from the major mining companies through the MMA (Mine Managers' Association), Mr Radford said.

"They sponsored for many years the upkeep of the park."

In the absence of such sponsorship today, he suggested residents could chip in, possibly through a regular gold coin donation, to help ensure the park not only survived but thrived into the future.

"The Penrose Park Trust are still going; they still need our support."

The bulk of the Trust's income comes from City Council and the NSW Land and Property Management Authority, which contribute a combined $37,000 annually.

Some mine workers and staff employed at the health service, council and Essential Energy also donate to the Trust through a deduction from their wages.

Most of the funding goes towards employing a park manager.

Trust chairwoman Deb Jones said the Trust "tries to identify new funding sources" and had considered turning the place into a commercial caravan park.

But it was reluctant to go down that path, she said, in part because it would spoil the "unique bush camping experience" the park offered.

Ms Jones said the Trust "greatly appreciated" Mr Armstrong's gesture which she said would help to ensure the park was enjoyed by future generations.

"We think it's a great bit of history and tells the story of where Penrose Park came from."

Since being elected 10 years ago the current Trust members had set about replacing the ageing infrastructure and making the park as "familyfriendly as possible".

But Ms Jones said new members were needed to help drive projects in the pipeline and come up with new ideas to increase visitation and income.

Those projects include finishing a camp kitchen that was built last year and landscaping the area.

Longer term, there are plans to put in some children's play equipment and an undercover barbecue area and to reclaim an old bike track that skirts the park.

"It would be really great for people to join the trust with fresh ideas and fresh levels of enthusiasm," Ms Jones said.

"We really want an environment where families come out so the next generation can be as passionate about the park ..."

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