Cruickshank Park ‘caretakers’ honoured

Peter and Lola Anderson at Cruickshank Park. (Joe Mastroianni) 228060_01

Goya Dmytryshchak

A couple which more than 50 years ago started campaigning to create the urban oasis that is Yarraville’s Cruickshank Park has been named Maribyrnong Citizens of the Year.

Lola and Peter Anderson, aged 81 and 85, respectively, say theirs is the story of Cruickshank Park.

“People just love it,“ Mrs Anderson said. “They just don’t believe when they find it; they’re absolutely gobsmacked.

“Peter started it off when it was just dirt.“

Mr Anderson was born in Yarraville while Mrs Anderson lived in Footscray her whole life, before the couple moved to their present house near the park in 1959.

They have a photo of their daughter, 55, when she was aged 12 on a horse on a patch of dirt that was there before the park.

“We just felt that it was wasted land,“ Mrs Anderson said.

She said various ideas had been floated by others for the site – everything from a golf club to a soccer field to a swimming pool.

“We just said, hoo-ha, no way – we just want passive recreation, just for people to walk and enjoy,“ Mrs Anderson said.

She said the park was designed in 1971 and she remembers that on October 25, 1979, the first trees were planted.

During the COVID-19 lockdowns last year, the park was a saviour for many, she said.

“It’s just a delight to walk into that park and just see all the people there,“ Mrs Anderson said.

“At lockdown, Cruickshank Park saved a lot of people who were stressed, and they would come into Cruickshank Park.

“It’s a wonder they didn’t close Cruickshank Park down, it was so busy.“

She said the couple was shocked at their civic honour.

“We’re honoured and we’re proud that we were named, just for looking after a park,“ Mrs Anderson said.

“We’re caretakers of the park.“

Other recipients of the Maribyrnong Council Civic Awards were: Greg Ferrington, Volunteer of the Year; Mohamed Semra and Zoe Knight, Youth Leadership Award; Inner West Air Quality Community Reference Group, Community Strengthening Award; Stuart and Liana Lucca-Pope, Enterprise Maribyrnong Award – Contribution to Business Community; Tilegne Therapy, Enterprise Maribyrnong Award – New and Emerging Business Award; Mat O’Keefe (Pride of our Footscray), Enterprise Maribyrnong Award – Innovative Business Award; Footscray Trugo Club, Active Maribyrnong Sporting Award; The Hansen Reserves, Arts Award; and

Lee Smith-Moir, Les Twentyman and Rebecca Barnard, Mayoral Award.