Frank Page

 As far back as 1893 there was a movement to build a lake in Daylesford.  The man-made Lake Daylesford, the beautiful centre-piece of Daylesford, was ultimately formed in 1929 as a project of the Daylesford Borough Council with the cost met by ratepayers through a special rate of 6 pence in the pound over a thirty-year term which they met “with enthusiasm”.  Areas submerged by the lake included market gardens, several mineral springs and the site of the former Chinese settlement, including a Joss House.  A famed American architect and landscape architect, while Melbourne based overseeing his designs for Canberra, was invited to plan a beautification scheme for the lake and adjacent mineral springs.

Victorian Governor, Lord Somers, declared open the lake on Thursday 17 April 1930, some 90 years ago, and the streets of Daylesford were “gaily decorated with bunting” to welcome his punctual arrival with the Borough Band playing selections outside the Town Hall.  A luncheon was served in the foyer of the Rex Theatre with tables decorated with blue delphiniums, marigolds and autumn leaves, while “palms and clusters of Easter daisies added charm to the foyer and made a pretty setting.”  After visiting the Botanic Gardens the Governor declared the lake open from a raised platform at the lake bank, following which he declared open Leggatts Bridge constructed by the Country Roads Board.

Noteworthy was the vision of post gold mining townspeople to develop a recreational lake and mineral springs reserve. This was to compliment what was already a growing tourist attraction, namely the Spa Centre of Australia, with a goal of continued prosperity for Daylesford and district.

Roll forward to the late 1980s and the formation of the original Friends of Lake Daylesford whose membership comprised local residents, particularly with properties adjacent to the lake reserve.  The group were very active and maintained a close and cooperative relationship with the then Shire of Daylesford and Glenlyon.  In 1990, working bees were conducted on the second Saturday of each month.

During this period the level of the lake was lowered for a period of time to allow for works on the retaining wall.  This provided the opportunity to remove all manner of rubbish which had accumulated in the lake since its creation. Member David Endacott was responsible for propagation of a range of native trees which members in turn planted in large numbers around the southern section of the lake.  The extensive range of trees seen today resulted from this work. 

Relocation of people and the development of Daylesford over succeeding years saw the disbandment of FOLD.  It was February 2014 when the Friends of Lake Daylesford reemerged through Social Media as a Facebook group. This group became a means of identifying issues impacting the lake reserve, including damage to infrastructure, safety concerns, maintenance issues and rubbish accumulation especially at times of high visitation such as public holidays.  Equally the group has become a vehicle for anyone who appreciates the unique and special qualities of the lake reserve, so loved by residents and visitors alike.  The page reflects such appreciation through an unfolding array of beautiful photographs which can also be found through appropriately tagged Instagram accounts.

FOLD has also become a means of connecting the community with Hepburn Shire who are responsible for the management of the lake reserve.  The group facilitates community consultation with the shire Parks Team identifying issues and sharing information with the community.

Occasionally the lake presents issues of controversy, the most notable of which in recent times was the matter of a substantial number of geese inhabiting the lake environs.  This became a polarising issue within the community pitting geese supporters against the shire and those who were in favour of the removal of the geese.  FOLD took no position on this matter, in line with its rule to avoid any political commentary.

Lake Daylesford continues to be the centre-piece of Daylesford.  Its natural beauty is intrinsic to the overall attractiveness of the town and no doubt fulfils the vision and aspirations of local people harking back to the first lake musings 127 years ago. And, by the way, the famed American architect and landscape architect was Walter Burley Griffin.

See the photo gallery of Lake Daylesford here.

Autumn on Lake Daylesford (Photo: Frank Page)