Senior Citizen of the Year Doug Abbot at Eric Edwardson Memorial Park
At 89 years of age Bellbird Park resident Doug Abbot shows no sign of taking it easy anytime soon.
He will turn 90 next month.
Since about 2005 he has volunteered thousands of hours tending to the picnic area, seats, benches, garden beds, and clearing falling vegetation in Eric Edwardson Memorial Park at Bellbird Park.
The just over one hectare (or two and three quarter acres) of suburban parkland has been transformed into a place that retains its natural bushland feel with plenty of large shade trees. It is now a welcoming and accessible place for the local community.
Mr Abbot also volunteers time with Drug Arm and Guide Dogs Australia and was awarded Senior Citizen of the Year at the recent 2019 Ipswich Australia Day Awards held at North Ipswich Reserve Corporate Centre.
After the presentation Doug Abbot said he was absolutely gobsmacked.
“Especially when I was up on the stage and they turned round and said my name.
“My wife Jean said my face was blank and everyone was saying smile.”
Before and after: Oak Street entrance to Eric Edwardson Memorial Park in 2005 and 2019
Doug Abbot moved to Bellbird Park from England with his wife in about 1995 to be closer to their daughter.
His daily routine has included rising early to tend to the park which was orginally designated as parkland by the former Moreton Shire Council prior to 1995.
“It was totally overgrown back then,” he said.
“I was exercising my dog in about 2005 and thought it was an ideal place, if I can get in, so later I broke down a load of growth and made a footpath round the park.
“When I looked at the sign and I didn’t know who Eric Edwardson was and thought the state of the park back then was a disgrace.
“A neighbour in Oak Street came out and asked would I be willing to help clear the park.”
Ipswich City Council offered insurance cover for the volunteer workers to enable the clearing to continue.
Google street view of Buttler Street entrance to Eric Edwardson Memorial Park in January 2010
Doug Abbot’s commitment of beautifying the thickly wooded bushland on a slope did not weaken.
“So eventually I planned a footpath around the park and noticed something would have to be done on the high side where the underground gas pipeline is because people were walking up there with prams even when it was muddy.
“Council then put in 95 steps which was much appreciated by all.”
Some years later another concrete pathway with no steps was built. It makes its way winding through the park from the lower side at Buttler Street of the top in Oak Street.
“Fire and flood mitigation measures are still in progress. There’s a ditch I’d been digging out for years and it was finished fairly recently with the help of heavy machinery.
“The ditch has stopped water going into houses at the bottom of the park.
“In the past lighting hit trees and council has come in and cleared the debris.”
Doug Abbot said he worked closely with council officers as the ‘park coordinator’ and filed monthly reports to council’s Works, Parks and Recreation Department.
Council also provides a skip bin for green waste and when it is full Doug calls Ipswich Waste Services to let them know.