Lake Parramatta

  • Lake Parramatta
    Swimming at Lake Parramatta is a popular activity for families and friends.
  • Lake Parramatta
    Historic Lake Parramatta was a popular swimming destination in the 1940's.
  • Lake Parramatta
    Lake Parramatta has nearby amenities including a playground for all abilities.
  • Lake Parramatta
    The site also includes a toilet block and BBQ facilities.
  • Lake Parramatta
    Children can learn to swim in a safe environment, enjoying the natural surrounds.
  • Lake Parramatta
    The existing walking track provides additional opportunities for outdoor recreation.
  • Lake Parramatta
    Young children enjoy the safety of calm, clean waters to play.
Introduction

Until the 1930’s, Lake Parramatta was a popular swimming area with Australia’s largest Freshwater Lifesaving Club to oversee swimmer safety. However in the 1940’s, the lake was closed due to increasing pollution levels. In 2014, the Parramatta River Catchment Group (PRCG), committed to a vision to make the Parramatta River and it’s catchment swimmable again by 2025. Following decades of catchment works to improve water quality, the Lake was finally reopened to swimming in 2015. The number of visitors has increased by 400% in the last three years, illustrating how popular natural swimming can be, and strongly supports the PRCG’s vision to make other locations swimmable across the Parramatta River catchment.

Description of project

The Western part of the Sydney metropolitan area is highly urbanised and by 2050, it is estimated that an additional 4 million people will be living in, or near the Parramatta River catchment. The Eastern part of Sydney is well served with numerous ocean beaches, but for people in Western Sydney it is a long, sometimes hot, expensive and difficult journey to reach these areas. Council highlighted the lack of outdoor swimming opportunities in the Western Sydney Region as a priority. Since opening in 2015, the high number of people visiting the swimming area is a testament that there is a large untapped demand for local natural swimming areas in the western part of Sydney.

As part of the City of Parramatta’s (CoP) commitment to make Parramatta River and its catchment swimmable again, the Council reviewed all possible swimming sites in its area and found Lake Parramatta was the most promising site, as the water quality in the Lake had gradually improved over past decades due to a program of works in the catchment undertaken by the PRCG. In addition to having great water quality, the Lake reserve also has existing walking tracks, toilets, a café, playground, BBQ’s and a car park, all of which added to the attractiveness of the Lake as a mixed-use community facility. CoP established a project team and undertook the following activities to create a safe, accessible, natural outdoor swimming area:

  • Divers checked and removed debris from the swimming area
  • Pebbles were added to fill in gaps in the rocks at the entry point to the water
  • An improved path down to the Lake was built
  • Part of the Lake was cordoned off, as a designated swimming area, using buoys and ropes
  •  Lifeguards were hired to oversee water safety during the busier summer months
  • Appropriate information and compliance signage was designed and installed.

 

A recent survey conducted by CoP, shows that 93% of visitors report swimming at Lake Parramatta is “good” or “very good” and it is rated as the number one Parramatta attraction by the TripAdvisor website.

The project demonstrates that it is possible to provide a high quality, popular experience for people without the need to expend large amounts of money for infrastructure or maintenance, instead leveraging the beautiful natural environment of the Lake Parramatta reserve.

Project team
  • City of Parramatta
  • Royal Life Saving NSW
  • Office of Environment and Heritage (Beachwatch section)
  • Parramatta River Catchment Group
Project cost

$40,000

Health value

Lake Parramatta provides adults and children with substantial physical and mental health benefits through encouraging swimming in a natural, beautiful environment.  This is particularly important during the warmer months of summer when physical activity is uncomfortable due to the heat in Western Sydney.

It also provides active recreation opportunities through the surrounding amenities and activities; encouraging bushwalking, and the use of hire rowboats, kayaks and paddleboats.  In the first year of operation, more than a thousand non-motorised crafts were hired, representing a substantial amount of physical activity.

Economic value

The project cost was significantly less than the construction of a new municipal swimming pool, and does not require the ongoing operational costs of a conventional pool. Providing the community with much needed ammenities, without spending a significant amount of Council funds. The project has provided economic benefits through:

- Encouraging visitation to the Parramatta area

Visitors supporting the local, lakeside café at Lake Parramatta

- Encouraging the opening of a new business to provide kayaks and rowboats for hire.

Environmental value
  • The project has encouraged people to spend time outdoors, in the natural environment, and helps people understand the benefits of clean waterways and catchments.
  • Operation of the swimming area at the Lake (unlike traditional swimming pools) requires no energy for water heating or lighting, no drinking water top ups, no chemicals, and produces no waste products.
  • Lake Parramatta Reserve is the largest bushland remnant surviving in the Parramatta Local Government Authority. The 60 hectares of bushland is representative of the shale/sandstone environment occurring between the Cumberland Plain and the Hornsby Plateau. Consequently, it has a high level of biodiversity and is of regional significance.
  • Ongoing catchment works to improve water quality.
Social value
  • The swimming area and surrounding reserve is a very popular recreational site used by families and social groups, strengthening community ties and connectivity. A survey conducted by Council showed that 95% of visitors attend the swimming area as part of a group and almost 8 in 10 of visitors attended with children under the age of 17.
  • The ammenities in the broader reserve area such as the barbeques, a playground, toilets, boat hire, a café, flora and fauna, and walking tracks, all encourage use of the area and foster social interactions.
  • Additonally, Council is working to make the amenities and Lake more accessible to people with disability. In late 2017, a new path and viewing platform is being built, that will enable less mobile people and those in wheelchairs to watch the people as they swim.
  • The nearby playground includs a ‘Liberty Swing’, a wheelchair accesible swing for children and adults.
Use value
  • Use of the facility is free, offering all community members the opportunity to engage in healthy activity at no cost.
  • It is accessible by car or public transport.
  • The Lake Parramatta area is cooler than most of the Parramatta area during heatwaves, allowing it to be a place of refuge from the heat.
  • It offers many people and communities their first experience of swimming in a relatively safe natural environment, which does not have some of the hazards of other natural swimming areas (e.g. beaches with tides, rips, waves, dangerous animals).
  • It encourages other recreational activities that build social capital such as bushwalking, boating, and shared family experiences.
Type of project
Public Open Space
Scale of project
Local Area
Location
Urban