Crossing Place Project

The Crossing Place Project was the first major project the Foundation supported.

In 1838, as the north east of Victoria was surveyed for European settlement, Benalla was described as The Crossing Place on the Broken River. The Crossing Place remains the heart of Benalla, encompassing the Botanical Gardens, Art Gallery, Lake Benalla and surrounding riverine landscape.

The Crossing Place concept was developed in 2001 by a dedicated group of community members; the Crossing Place Committee. This group saw the potential of linking two council plans the Riverine Trail and Waterway Management Plan and the Benalla Botanical Gardens Conservation Plan with the addition of a Heritage Walk, to create one comprehensive plan for the whole area. The Crossing Place Project aimed to develop and conserve Benalla’s remarkable heritage and environment, create economic growth and promote community development.

A partnership was formed between Benalla Rural City Council, Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority and the Crossing Place Committee to promote the project. The Crossing Place Project was jointly funded by Federal and State Government grants, Benalla Rural City Council, Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority, public fundraising and in-kind contributions from local Service Clubs, Friends of the Benalla Botanical Gardens and local businesses.

Tomorrow:Today Foundation worked with the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR) and the Crossing Place Committee to provide a way for community donations to the project to be tax deductible. Dame Elisabeth Murdoch was patron, and a strong supporter, of the fundraising for the Benalla Rose Garden component of the Crossing Place Project.


Just over $1m was spent over nearly three years to see the Project completed in early 2005. Work carried out as part of the Crossing Place Project included:

. reinstatement of the 1886 Botanic Gardens path design
. improvements to the Gardens frontage and entrances
. construction of the Rotary picnic shelter
. design and construction of innovative new Rose Garden
. Gardens and foreshore lighting
. completion of the walking track around Lake Benalla
. new boardwalk near the ceramic mural
. Elm Walk in front of the showgrounds.

Outcomes

The Indigenous Garden by Lake Benalla is a Tomorrow:Today Foundation project, undertaken as a significant first step towards achieving the Crossing Place vision of a Heritage Walk around the lake. The idea for the Garden came from discussions with local indigenous people who saw the potential of a community garden as a place for learning about Indigenous culture and the environment. It is creating a high quality addition to the public space around Lake Benalla to recognise the history of the district before European settlement. For more information go to the ‘Indigenous Garden’ page also under ‘Special Projects’.

Following the major improvements brought about by the Crossing Place Project, there was a community initiative to showcase Benalla as a garden tour destination in rural Australia.

The Benalla Botanica Conference ‘Community Spaces and Private Places’ held in 2004, received initial funding from Tomorrow:Today Foundation’s first round of Small Grants. The second Benalla Botanica Conference - ‘Gardens in a Changing Climate’ took place in October 2007.

Planning days organised by the Crossing Place Committee resulted in the establishment of the Botanical Gardens & Riverine Parkland Advisory Committee to council to provide ongoing direction for the area.

Prior to the Crossing Place Project the Friends of the Benalla Botanical Gardens had been struggling to fill committee positions. With the huge improvements made in their area of interest the group has been reinvigorated and has undertaken the planting of numerous significant beds within the Gardens as well as a broad range of advocacy, promotional and other developmental tasks.

During the course of the project the Crossing Place Committee established links with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, which have continued to grow. In March 2007 the Friends of Benalla Botanical Gardens & Riverine Parkland hosted the biannual meeting of staff from Botanical Gardens throughout Victoria. Benalla was chosen because of the town’s success in achieving such ambitious landscape improvements and to highlight the value of positive partnerships between council and community groups.

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