History of the Bicentennial Park, West Pymble

From the late 1850s the Lofbergs were a prominent family in the history of West Pymlbe. Jonas Lofberg arrived in Sydney on the Cornelius Werd in 1857. According to Lofberg family reminiscences, Jonas and a mate jumped their Norwegian ship, stole a boat and rowed up the Lane Cove River to avoid detection.

Jonas Lofberg’s first employment on the river involved cutting up wood, loading it onto a boat and rowing the vessel to the Sydney Markets at Darling Harbour and back. Between 1840 and 1880, swathes of the local bushland were cleared to make way for orchards.

Jonas married Adeline Lewis, the boss’s daughter, in 1863, had nine children and in the early 1870s moved to a 30-acre (12.1-hectare) farm in West Pymble. When Jonas died in 1880, his sons continued working the family’s West Pymble farm with the help of their mother Adeline.

The Lofbergs grew oranges, grapes and strawberries on the family’s land between Ryde and Yanko Roads into the 1920s. As mixed farmers, the Lofbergs also raised cattle, ran a piggery and bred horses, game fowls and beagle hounds. West Pymble’s lucrative fruit-growing industry, along with that of neighbouring suburbs, was as short-lived as the timber industry. A combination of bushfires, pests, disease and poor agricultural methods underpinned the decline of orcharding following its 1840–1880 heyday. Another factor in the industry’s demise was real estate speculation, a much more profitable enterprise than orcharding, especially after the arrival of fast reliable rail transport.

The Lofberg family were also involved in low-key quarrying at the Yanko Road end of the family’s land holding that ran through to Ryde Road. In 1926, Ku-ring-gai Council purchased eight acres (3.2 hectares) of the Lofberg estate, including the quarry site, and installed electricity, a crushing machine, storage bins and rock drilling equipment. Thanks to this farsighted investment, the council had purchased a ready supply of white metal for road and footpath construction in its municipality as well as heat-toughened sandstone suitable for building purposes. By 1930, the council was producing 80,000 tonnes of rock a year, some for sale beyond its boundaries, and employing 80 workers.

In 1968 Ku-ring-gai Council’s finance committee recommended the construction of a public municipal swimming pool in West Pymble.  When the pool opened in May 1971, West Pymble was the proud owner of the only public pool in the municipality. The pool complex included a 50-metre main pool and pools for learners, young children and toddlers.

For many years, the aptly named Lofberg Oval adjoining the disused quarry hosted a range of sporting activities, including local athletics events and training, and various codes of rugby and soccer. From the late 1970s, council and the community, spearheaded by the West Pymble Residents Action Group, explored a range of development proposals including active and passive recreation areas and a commercial sports village complex for the out-of-bounds quarry site that had proved so lucrative for council in earlier times, and been routinely used as an off-limits playground by bolder local children.

In 1985, competing concerns were satisfied by a proposal to rezone the area for open space that was submitted to the New South Wales Bicentennial Committee; these plans included an aboretum, native flora plantings, retention of keynote geological features and development of recreational facilities including a cycle/exercise track, picnic/barbeque areas, playground equipment and a bicentennial monument. By 1988, the original site of Lofberg’s quarry and surrounds had been transformed into the Ku-ring-gai Bicentennial Park oval complex.

In early 2012, the West Pymble Pool was closed to accommodate the $13 million reconstruction of a modern heated indoor aquatic and leisure facility.

Source: Barbara Cameron-Smith, ‘West Pymble’, Dictionary of Sydney, 2012, http://www.dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/entry/west_pymble