Cheney Park continues to battle a salinity problem as Parkes Shire Council seek funds to fix it

It’s no secret the Cheney Park sporting precinct has been and continues to be affected by a severe salinity problem.

But Parkes Councillor Louise O’Leary, who spoke at Parkes Shire Council’s December 19 meeting, said the problem is getting worse.

She said it’s been the main topic of the Parkes Sports Council meetings of late and is a major concern for the group that it will impact on sporting events.

“It will limit the opportunity for championship carnivals, especially for hockey, but also for touch football,” Cr O’Leary said at the meeting.

The salinity issue has been affecting Cheney Park since the 2000s, when it was masked by the drought and ground water levels dropped over that period.

Council’s Director of Infrastructure, Andrew Francis, said poor underlying soil conditions have lead to ineffective drainage of the area, and a perched saline water table that is exacerbated by inadequate irrigation infrastructure has caused shallow watering of the site. 

All this has lead to a salinity problem, and as a result has seen the loss of many of the surrounding trees and damage to a large part of the playing surface in the area.

Council has been working ever since to resolve the problem and restore the oval to normal.

The issue arose again in 2011, and in March 2016 council sought preliminary advice to clarify what was causing the issue, with a report tabled at council’s April 2016 meeting.

​In April 2017, council re-turfed the affected area as a temporary fix to the problem and to allow a number of major sporting competitions to be held at the precinct.

Council also installed monitoring devices last year to collect data over a 12 month period, which included rainfall information and soil tests to help council to develop an accurate and detailed plan for the site’s remediation. 

With the data already collected, Director of Engineering Services Ben Howard is in charge of works to fix Cheney Park.

He said they have been able to design under drainage and surrounding drainage works, in line with an upgrade to Station Street.

But the “ultimate fix”, as Mr Howard describes it, comes at a great cost and will depend on state or federal government grant funding to undertake the works.

“Sport plays an extremely important part in the fabric of the Parkes community, and the Cheney McGlynn  Park precinct is one of the premier sporting and community recreational open spaces in the Parkes Shire,” he said.

“The Cheney McGlynn facilities are used by over 6000 sporting groups members and school children, therefore this project is extremely important for the Parkes community.

“Cheney Park is a key attractor and driver of economic growth for Parkes, and the upgrades are necessary to enable the continued bid for regional, state and national events.”

The project will see subsoil draining installed under 24,400 sqm of the grounds, with the new drainage taking care of the stormwater runoff, creating an environmentally sustainable playing surface.

“Once the drainage is rectified, council will re-turf the site,” Mr Howard said.

“To do this part well, is again, highly costly, involving a large amount of unsuitable soil to be removed and good soil imported.

“Council currently has a number of grant applications pending to co-fund the required upgrades.”

Parkes Sports Council president, Al Gersbach, said he’d love for a solution to be reached and for it to be done properly so it doesn’t become an issue in the future.

“From the sports council’s perspective, we’d love to see a result quickly, but our hands are tied with what we can do,” he said.

“It’s affecting touch and hockey carnivals being held in Parkes, and it’s bit of an eyesore.

“We just want the issue to be resolved as quickly as possible.”