PIONEER Park will be the topic of further discussions between Coffs Harbour City councillors and the CBD Masterplan Committee in the next three weeks, following Thursday's Coffs Harbour City Council meeting.
At the meeting, the councillors endorsed deputy mayor Sally Townley's motion that retaining Pioneer Park as open space was the council's preferred position, with consultation with the CBD Committee to take place before the next council meeting on November 13.
The park's only current formal identification is as a road reserve.
Geography teacher Jonathan Cassell addressed the council meeting, asking for the retention of the park on the grounds of its use by koalas as a safe habitat for ground movement as well as a source of food trees; its importance as "cultural capital" for the links it offered to the city' colonial forefathers; as a safe lunch place, a quiet, shady island of green and a pedestrian access way.
Cr Rodney Degens asked Mr Cassell how many koalas he had seen in the park and he said he had seen one, walking across the park and climbing a flooded gum tree. Mr Cassell asked if anyone had done any studies on koalas in the park, but received no reply.
Cr John Arkan wanted to include in Cr Townley's motion that the council investigate costings to construct a road from the end of Vernon St to the corner of Earl St, but Cr Townley declined "at this stage", saying they had heard a lot from the CBD Masterplan Committee on the intricacies of the road network .
Cr Townley said there were two separate issues involved - a temporary road opening through Pioneer Park, which was embedded in the Gowings redevelopment proposal and a permanent road, which was embedded in the CBC Masterplan, to improve traffic flow.
She said while traffic experts saw it as essential that the traffic flowed more swiftly, the more socially acceptable use was not necessarily a straight line.
She said the Gowings DA did not take this social amenity aspect into account and no DA had yet been lodged for the permanent road proposal.
Cr Townley said she wanted to see the best use of the space, which was zoned SP1 special use and said there were many former road reserves which had been converted to other uses, including Macauleys Headland, once a Pacific Highway road reserve.
She praised the work of artist Ash Johnston and pointed out that the Coffs Coast Cultural Trail, mapped by Coffs Coast Tourism, began in Pioneer Park with his work.
In presenting a petition with 152 signatures collected at last week's rally in the park, Cr Townley said the message she was hearing from the community was that they wanted it retained as permanent parkland.
Council staff said the park, the unformed extension of the roadway from Duke and Vernon Sts to Harbour Dr, had been identified in the CBD Masterplan as a means of alleviating congestion in the CBD via a ring road and better catering for pedestrians.
They said a temporary roadway as part of reconstruction of the Gordon St/Harbour Dr intersection would mean removing six mature trees and would involve constructing a heavy-duty pavement catering for two lanes of traffic, which would mean all the hard work was done to establish a permanent road link.
They said the area would remain available as a pedestrian path, the intention was to retain the five flooded gum trees in the south-east of the park and plantings could be added either side of the road.
Staff said the need for enhanced open space in the CBD had been acknowledged in the Masterplan, which identified redevelopment of Brelsford Park as a high priority.