This petite Recreation Park was first acquired by the government in 1908 for use as an experimental orchard and continued to be used for horticultural research until the 1960s. Sustained public concern over a period of more than 15 years since the mid 1980s, seeking to have the land retained as open space resulted in it being proclaimed a Recreation Park under the National Parks and Wildlife Act in November 2001.
Blackwood Experimental Orchard
The land was purchased in 1908 to establish an orchard to trial and experiment with a wide range of fruit trees. In 1927, a census counted over 4 000 varieties of fruit trees. It was considered to be the largest collection of varieties in one plantation anywhere in the world. In the late 1930s, problems with soil erosion and fertility led to the orchard being mainly replanted with varieties more suited to the local climate. Contour planting was used for the first time in the state and green manure crops were planted between the rows of fruit trees. Orcharding in the area declined in the 1960s and resources were progressively transferred to a new facility at Lenswood. This orchard ceased functioning in 1968.
Orchard Manager's House
Orchard managers and their families lived in this house until the orchard closed in 1968. It was a substantial louvre-roofed villa consisting of six main rooms, a cellar and return verandahs on the northern and western sides. The vacant house was regularly vandalized. In 1998, some repairs were undertaken by volunteers. Sadly, in December 2008, the house was severely damaged by fire and had to be demolished.
The Importance of Community action
Government plans to rezone and sell off the land, in 1985 and 1993, resulted in community protest meetings and petitions demanding that the land be retained in perpetuity as public open space.
The Save the Blackwood Forest Committee was formed in 1993 and for the next nine years maintained pressure on the state government and a succession of ministers. Protest rallies and marches, public meetings, community tree plantings and tent embassies on the land reinforced the message that the community valued the public open space. Their message to the government was clear – this community asset was ‘not for sale’.
In 2001, after a long and difficult struggle, the Blackwood Forest Reserve was declared permanent open space as part of the Greater Mount Lofty Parklands.