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Restoring Brisbane’s Parks after the 2011 Floods

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Beginning in December 2010, Queensland was hit by weeks of widespread flooding with three quarters of the state affected by torrential rain. The city of Brisbane and its surrounding areas suffered enormous damage when flood waters reached their peak on January 13th, 2011, with 94 suburbs affected by flooding. Like so much of the region, Brisbane’s parks were devastated, though they have come a long way since the height of the floods. The following is a brief summary of what has been going on with Brisbane’s parks since the floods.

Extent of the Damage

It is estimated that the cost of the damage to Brisbane’s parks was around $28 million, with most, if not all parks closed for significant periods of time. In total 406 parks in Brisbane were affected, with damage ranging from mud and silt covering the park, to the loss of boardwalks, playgrounds and other public infrastructure.

Many people thought that the mud and organic matter that came from the Brisbane flood was going to be beneficial to trees. In actual fact it was detrimental because the mud created an impervious mud layer, meaning that the natural filtration from rainwater was being repelled. The soils were already water logged and the mud layer was creating an anaerobic environment, locking out air, turning the soil to alcohol – trees don’t like an unhealthy soil environment!

The Mud Army

As the floodwaters slowly receeded, the extent of the damage became clear and a call for volunteers was put out; the response was overwhelming. Tens of thousands of people from all over Australia headed to Brisbane and fanned out to assist in any way that they could, many spending days cleaning up some of Brisbane’s parks. The hordes of volunteers were dubbed ‘the Mud Army’, and their incredible display of mateship will long be considered a timeless example of what it means to be Australian.

Adopt A Park

With the outpouring of support and the emergence of the Mud Army, Brisbane residents began an ‘adopt a park’ initiative as a way to focus local people’s recovery efforts; hundred of people responded by cleaning up parks in their local areas. The ‘adopt a park’ people weren’t organised under a united banner, but all over Brisbane people came out to their local parks and did their bit in helping clean things up. The ‘adopt a park’ efforts have been credited with being one of the main reasons why Brisbane’s parks have been restored so quickly and effectively.

Riverside Parks Flood Recovery

The efforts of Brisbane city council have been focused primarily under the banner of the Riverside Park Flood Recovery, and boosted by a wave of cash donated from across the country. An amazing job has been done to get the city’s parks looking great. Since the floods, arborists have replanted 38,000 trees. Within 6 months of the floods 90% of Brisbane parks were reopened and now, just over 12 months since the worst of the damage was done, 97% of parks are open. A small number of  parks remain closed as they are still being worked on by construction workers, tree services, landscapers and so on.

The amazing recovery of Brisbane’s parks from the devastating floods of 2011 is representative of the recovery that has taken place right across Queensland. Following widespread devastation, Queenslanders have fought back, with huge amounts of support from their fellow Australians, and it is fitting that it is the parks that have provided the shining example for this sports loving population. The parks are one of the more important life sources for people in Brisbane, and have played a big role in bringing people together to recover.

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