Stephen Thatcher's ongoing commitment to improve Lake Liddell Recreation Area Reserve earns him award nomination

Lake Liddell Recreation Area Trust chairperson Stephen Thatcher (centre) with GJs by the Lake's Ged Elphinstone and Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon
Lake Liddell Recreation Area Trust chairperson Stephen Thatcher (centre) with GJs by the Lake's Ged Elphinstone and Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon

STEPHEN Thatcher's ongoing commitment to improve the Lake Liddell Recreation Area Reserve, near Muswellbrook, has earned him a nomination in the NSW/ACT Regional Achievement and Community Awards.

The popular initiative recognises that inspiring individual, as well as local groups or businesses, who goes "above and beyond" their regular duties.

And, on this occasion, Mr Thatcher will vie for the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment Crown Land Manager Excellence title.

It's just one of seven categories to be decided in 2020, with the winners taking home great prizes and a trophy.

Since the Lake Liddell Recreation Area Reserve Land Manager (LM) reformed in 2004, major improvements have been made in the areas of patronage, infrastructure, ambiance and operational budget.

Mr Thatcher also actively promotes the reserve to groups such as Scouts, Guides and Landcare, while hosting regular events to attract visitors.

"Lake Liddell has gradually improved to the point where we're on the brink of bringing the park up to a standard that was unimaginable several years ago," he said.

"Each member brings a wealth of experience to the board, ranging from accounting, land care, teaching and management.

"This ensures that well-balanced decisions are made for the whole community.

"The managers of the reserve (the Elphinstones) deserve special mention, too, because of their dedication to improving Lake Liddell despite facing numerous unforeseen challenges."

The LM has made big enhancements over the past few years with continual improvements to the manager's cottage and amenities block (adding washing machines and dryers), road surfaces, the old canteen and lake foreshore stabilisation, as well as planting more than 20,000 plants, carrying out mulching trials and conducting salinity trials.

A new water treatment plant is now operational.

There's a maze and children's playground, a disc golf course has been developed, along with a beach-themed water play area.

"The managers also run a business, which includes a go-cart track, climbing wall, indoor skydiving, laser tag and speedway track on an area of the reserve," Mr Thatcher said.

"There will be a DA lodged with Muswellbrook Shire Council to allow this commercial enterprise to expand on a portion of land to be set aside for this purpose.

"Our latest improvement is the installation of a 54kw solar system, utilising the roofs of the amenities block and the rotunda.

"An Aboriginal Heritage Study has enabled the LM to engage with the Wanaruah people.

"Due to this collaboration we are in a position to include in our DA exciting ways to showcase the indigenous heritage of the area.

"As chairman of the board, I believe we are well underway in establishing the priority areas of the Draft Strategic Plan."

They include:

  • Enable growth, commercial opportunities and sustainable economic progress - the LM and park managers engage in Landcare activities, commercial enterprises, which allows for increased job growth and economic outcomes for the reserve;
  • Expand green space, sustainable quality of life and climate change resilience - the improvements to the foreshore, tree planting and installation of solar panels are some examples;
  • Strengthen and support evolving community support - the LM and park managers are always coming up with new ideas to connect with the community. GJ's by the Lake, the disc golf course, beach-themed water park, community events such as V-Dubs by the Lake and Regen involve many people from far and wide; and
  • Work with Aboriginal communities to realise the potential of their land rights - The LM has engaged an Aboriginal consultancy to engage both parties in protecting the heritage of the reserve. Some exiting initiatives are planned when the DA is submitted.