Backward Glance: Stories of Petrie Creek and Nambour’s Petrie Park also known as Sunroy Park
  • Wednesday 15 March 2017
Petrie Creek is steeped in history and today we shine the spotlight on the meandering waterway which has provided many stories in times gone by. 

 
Petrie Creek rises in the Blackall Range, west of Woombye, and winds its way through Nambour, along the flood plains and is joined by Paynters Creek before it enters the Maroochy River. 

Changes beyond recognition have occurred since Tom Petrie, in a long boat in 1862, ventured into the area later known as Petrie Creek.

The virgin forests that grew for thousands of years in the region brought the timber men to the North Coast looking for the highly sought after timbers.

Petrie came to the region to set up a cedar camp and one of the first European accounts of the Maroochy River is contained in his Reminiscences of Early Queensland, published in 1904. 

Petrie started from the North Pine River and headed for Mooloolah and Maroochy, searching for big cedar timber. 

The exploring party crossed Maroochy Bar and went up the river for some miles, turning at last into a creek on the left which we know today as Petrie Creek. 

Somewhere on the creek where the waters were navigable for the long boat, Petrie and his party made a camp where the group stayed for a fortnight. 

At the time, they cut out 200 cedar trees. 

Nambour’s Petrie Park is located in a bend of Petrie Creek at the northern end of Price Street. 

Price Street was named after George William Price, an early land owner, who died in 1916. 

Locals and tourists alike who stop for a picnic, visit the swimming pool or to play with their children in Petrie Park all enjoy this picturesque spot. 

They sit in an area which has connections to many historical stories from long ago.

In 1920, the people of Nambour were concerned about the lack of a park in their township.

Parks were important, desirable and necessary in the growing main town. 

In 1926, AW Thynne proposed that the paddock that had once belonged to George Price was a most suitable site. 

This land was flood prone and nothing much was done about the proposal at that time. 

Did you know Petrie Creek was once Nambour’s swimming pool and the place where the locals picnicked, learnt to swim, frolicked and swam laps whilst enjoying the cool waters?

Renowned Australian freestyle swimmer Andrew “Boy” Charlton visited Nambour in the early 1930s and swam against all challengers in Petrie Creek. 

The “Boy” won against all who tried to out distance him. 

No one could beat that great Aussie champion and the crowds that lined Petrie Creek were ecstatic.

A Nambour Chronicle article on November 21, 1930 reported the following humorous memories from a time gone by when travelers arrived by steam train, and life was a little simpler: “Passengers by the afternoon mail train to Brisbane have been very interested in a certain alluring sight before entering the station at Nambour. Many may ask why; but the reason is not far to seek. Last week the new bathing ‘box’ was erected near the swimming pool.”

Nambour residents were certainly not aware that train travelers passing high over the railway bridge had a bird’s eye view of the landscape and the bathing enclosure. 

Unaware they had many eyes upon them, they were exposed in the new bathing box which at that stage did not have a roof. 

A positive approach was published in the Nambour Chronicle story: “Well, there are various forms of publicity for a town and this will portray that swimming is at present a much patronized sport.”

Maroochy Amateur Swimming Club put in a proposal in 1932 asking for a weir which would increase the depth of the Petrie Creek’s Nambour swimming pool. 

The pool was situated adjacent to the high banks along the reach near Coronation Avenue. 

The banks were an ideal vantage point to watch the swimming action and any competitions.

Maroochy Shire Council acquired more land at Petrie Park and levelled an area for a parade ground to be used by Emergency Services and the Commonwealth Militia forces with the outbreak of World War II. 

These forces comprised of local young volunteers and included WWI veterans who assisted with training the Militia troops. 

The Militia, under the command of Captain Mathieson of the AIF, was based in the Nambour Drill Hall. 

The hall located in Price Street was officially opened in December 1939. 

Maroochy District Band led the opening celebrations and Maroochy Shire Council’s Cr Whalley was handed the key opening the newly constructed building. 

By the 1950s areas of the park had been improved, but the lower grounds which were flood prone did not receive much attention. 

In the 1960s, Nambour Rotary, Nambour Apex and the Maroochy Shire Council combined to improve the park, which had been enlarged to encompass both sides of Petrie Creek.
An amenities block, a new road and Warana Bridge were constructed. 

The former Nambour Court House, which had been shifted from Woombye in 1898, was purchased for $30 and relocated to the park to house a youth club and historical society in 1963. 

The Nambour Marching Girls and many other local organisations regularly used the sports grounds which had been raised and levelled by the community groups and council. 

The area where the marching girls were situated was then known as Sunroy Sports Field which was named after Roy Edwards who was credited in stimulating local interest in the forming of Nambour’s Marching Girls team, having been involved with the formation of marching girls which proved very popular at the time in Toowoomba. 

The derivation of the name is not really known though it is quite probable that the brightly colored uniforms reflected the “sun”.

Petrie Park was officially opened in October 1963 by Alex Dewar, the then Minister for Labour, Industry and Tourism. 

In 1977, a decision was made to build an Olympic Swimming Pool for the Nambour region and a site was chosen in the northern section of Petrie Park. 

Five years later, a state-of-the-art Olympic Pool was opened for Nambour. 

In 1985, Maroochy Shire Council gave the park another facelift which included gardens and rock walls in conjunction with shelter sheds, fencing and playground equipment. 

A big community effort in 1990 took place and was supported by Maroochy Shire Council.

The community helped to re-vegetate and upgrade Petrie Park in association with the Sunshine Coast Environmental Council. 

Hundreds of trees were planted, including many species of the original trees.

In 2003, Petrie Creek Catchment Care Group’s community effort were awarded and honored by a South East Queensland Tidy Towns community awards. 

The group had worked with Maroochy Shire Council and other community organisations to restore the creek banks. 

Throughout the Sunshine Coast, there are many environmentally minded community groups and volunteers who have rolled up their sleeves, put on their gardening gloves and cleaned up our parks and waterways for over 50 years. 

Special thanks go to everyone who make our parks and waterways like Petrie Creek a special place to enjoy. 

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images. In 2017 we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Naming of the Sunshine Coast. For more information on this milestone anniversary visit www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au/fifty

Image Details:
Hero image: M198389 - Official opening of the Warana Bridge in Petrie Park, Nambour by the Hon. Alex T. Dewar M.L.A., Minister for Labour and Industry and Tourist Activities, on 28 September 1963.

Carousel images:
Image 1: Panorama of Nambour, this section showing the present site of Petrie Park, ca 1925.
Image 2: Bathers at Petrie Creek near the Railway Bridge, Nambour, 1932.
Image 3: Plaque unveiled in Petrie Park, Nambour, September 27, 1964.
Image 4: Hon. Alex T. Dewar, M.L.A. unveiling a plaque to commemorate the official opening of Warana Bridge in Petrie Park, Nambour. Taken on September 26, 1964.
Image 5: Sunroy Youth Centre surrounded by flood waters from Petrie Creek, Nambour, March 1964.
Image 6: Helicopter mail delivery at Sunroy sports field, Nambour, as part of the Queensland centenary celebrations, 1959. The area pictured was officially opened as Petrie Park in October 1963.
Image 7: Nambour District Skate Park, Petrie Park, Petrie Park Road, Nambour, ca 1997.