New heritage signs should spark nostalgia for older folk

LOTS of memories for older Sunshine Coasters, including yours truly, will be sparked by three new heritage signs at what is now Black Swan Park at Cotton Tree, Maroochydore.

Peter Rigby, of the Maroochydore Surf Lifesaving Club (aka the Black Swans), who has steeped himself in the history of the club, has filled me in on the background to the erection of the signs, which are sure to be of great interest to more recently arrived residents as well as visitors.

They not only recall and depict several significant chapters in the history of Maroochydore and the Sunshine Coast, but will help to set the scene for two upcoming centenaries.

The year 2016 will mark the passing of 100 years since the birth of the surf lifesaving movement at Maroochydore, and also the beginning of Cotton Tree development, when the first land sales were held during the traditional Christmas-New Year camping period at what is now the heritage listed Cotton Tree Caravan Park.

In engaging text and images, the three signs depict the many-layered history of this very special open space alongside our shining river.

One tells the First Australians' dreamtime story of the girl Maroochy and explains the names Moorookutchi (red bill, the black swan) and Moorookutchi-dha (place of the black swan).

Another tells of the Cotton Tree jetties in the days when Maroochydore was the river port for the small steamers which came to load the highly prized timber brought down by bullock team and raft to meet the demands of a rapidly growing Brisbane.

As the years went on, Cotton Tree increasingly became the destination of passenger boats bringing campers and picnickers down the river from Nambour and the hinterland.

Yet another sign takes the viewer back to the beginnings of Maroochydore's lifesaving tradition. By 1916 the increasing popularity of its beaches and waterways had brought with it a growing concern for safety, and surf lifesaving developed into both a community service and a sport.

The Cotton Tree Lagoon was used as a training area for lifesaving skills right up until 1981, when the Cotton Tree Aquatic Centre was built.

The lifesavers, however, were not the only ones to make use of the lagoon, also known as the Cotton Tree swimming pool, which was really just a river backwater ... a far cry from the present aquatic centre.

I and my family wee among the thousands from areas such as Nambour, Buderim and the hinterland who flocked to the lagoon's calm water for weekend outings, where children could swim and play safely. There was a diving board and a slippery slide, and a fleet of canoes hired out by the charismatic Bob Attenborough, who, if memory serves me right, was the first TV cameraman on the Coast as a stringer for Channel Nine in the early 1960s.

Congratulations to the Sunshine Coast Regional Council and particularly Cr Jason O'Pray for giving this people-friendly riverside space an appropriate name and ensuring that its history will be preserved.

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