How did Bruxner Park become a Flora Reserve?

Bruxner Park Road circa 1910.  Courtesy Picture Coffs Harbour (mus 07-3818)

Bruxner Park Flora Reserve is located approximately four kilometres North West of Coffs Harbour and is 420 hectares in area. It is within two kilometres of the Pacific Ocean and is comprised of Rainforest, Hardwood, Blackbutt, Flooded Gum and Old Growth forest and is remarkable as being one of the few areas that links the Great Dividing Range to the ocean.  It is also listed on the Register of the National Estate as part of the Orara Ornithological Area due to having very high bird diversity.

The Bruxner Park Flora Reserve region has always been an important place for the Gumbaynggirr people, the traditional custodians of the area, and still holds significance as a place that connects them with their Dream time stories.  It is part of a larger “men’s area” and traditionally was used for hunting and gathering of bush foods and medicines.  The creation stories of the Gumbaynggirr people incorporates these lands and it has also been used for initiation and ceremonies and holds several recorded Aboriginal sites. The Bruxner Park Flora Reserve region was also part of a known travel route for the Gumbaynggirr people to and from the coastline of the Coffs Harbour region through the escarpment to the Orara Valley.

Logging commenced in the area in the 1880s soon after European settlement to the Coffs Harbour area. The logging industry was one of Coffs Harbour’s most significant economic industries at the time. There are tree stumps in the reserve that still display the signs of board cuts, a type of logging that was used until the 1950s.  There is also remnants of the tram line that was built by the British Australian Timber Company (BAT) to transport the logs down the steep incline to the sawmill in Coffs Harbour between 1908-1914. This is where Bruxner Road is today.

Steam train – “Fanny” B.A.T loco, carrying logs across Coffs Creek, logs from Bruxner Park , Coffs Harbour, circa 1910.  Courtesy Picture Coffs Harbour (mus 07-2842)

From early settlement days the Bruxner Park area was used as an area for recreation where local residents went for picnics and walks in the rain forest, (See Fig 2) and by the 1930s the local community became concerned that the logging industry would destroy the rain forest and began lobbying the government. In 1933 the local member Ray Vincent who was also the Minister for Forests directed that a suitable area be reserved for Bruxner Park (named after the Deputy Premier of NSW at the time) and in 1936 57 hectares was transferred from the Orara East State Forest and it was finally declared a flora reserve in 1958. This was extended in 1984 to its current size, incorporating Sealy Lookout and thereby providing a larger buffer to the rain forest. There has been no logging since this time except for two trees as a demonstration when the Queen visited in 1970 as part of the Captain Cook Bicentenary celebrations.

The Queen and Princess Anne watch the logging in Bruxner Park, 11 April 1970. Courtesy Picture Coffs Harbour (accession no. 802179572)

The first walking trails and picnic areas were built in the late 1950s and in 1961 a large flooded gum tree believed to be approximately 500 years old and still standing today was named the “Vincent Tree” in recognition of Ray Vincent’s role in the establishment of the park.  At a height of 65 metres and a diameter at breast height of 2.27 metres, the Vincent Tree was one of the biggest trees in New South Wales. The building of Sealy Lookout (which was named after a local forester who was involved in the Lions club) was commenced in the late 1960s with the noteworthy assistance of the Coffs Harbour Lions Club.

The Vincent Tree Bruxner Park 1962.  Courtesy Picture Coffs Harbour (mus 07-5525)

The Bruxner Park Flora Reserve is now a major tourist site for the Coffs Harbour region as well as a popular recreation area for local residents.  It is still comprised of the original walking trails through the rain forest, picnic areas, The Vincent Tree and Sealy Lookout; but has also expanded to become a certified Eco Tourist Attraction; and includes Gumbaynggirr Cultural Heritage tours and experiences; an interpretive walk telling the story of Gumgali, the Black Goanna using mural art, signage, sculpture and sound; and a tree top adventure park.


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