Umina Beach Airstrip

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Trafalgar Park in Umina is undergoing a transformation that will reveal a snapshot of the Central Coast's history. Today I am pleased to announce that the Turnbull government is supporting this initiative. Funding from the Stronger Communities Program will help our community advocates and volunteers on the peninsula, led by the Umina Community Group, uncover even more of our rich history. Thanks to the Stronger Communities Program, $10,000 is being committed to assist with the refurbishment, which ensures that all three levels of government will support this project, thanks to investments also from the New South Wales government and Central Coast Council.

Trafalgar Park is a small pocket of land in Umina Beach, but this project aims to rename the space Runway Park and tell a fascinating story that links to our region's wartime history. Steve Spillard, a passionate local resident and historian, told me that during the Second World War the RAAF constructed an airfield in Umina. The main taxiway ran along what we now know as Trafalgar Avenue, stretching from McMasters Road to Oxford Street, with adjoining streets used as taxiways. The runway was a truly local project, with sandstone from nearby Mount Ettalong and gravel from a quarry at Killcare. Residents described the gravel as a deep red, and the runway later earned its name as the Red Runway.

Throughout the war, it is believed that many British and American crews utilised the airstrip. Umina locals have recalled that American bomber crews would land then settle in the surrounding areas, with one entire crew liking the area so much that they stayed. Of course, the airstrip declined in use during the 1940s as the area became predominantly residential, but that did not stop an incident in 1950, when a pilot lost control of his Tiger Moth biplane in a strong gust of wind. Incredible newspaper clips from that time show how lucky the 21-year-old pilot was to stay alive, as the plane crash-landed onto the roof of a home in Nelson Street. He escaped with shock and a slight concussion.

Now, more than 60 years later, the runway, in a new way, is making a comeback. This project will upgrade the park and recognise its place in local history. Rod Unsworth, the Vice President of the Umina Community Group, told me that excavation work has just begun. Community involvement includes the planting of shrubs and trees, and the plans are that the park will be fitted with play equipment, seating and shade areas. There is even the occasional glimpse of that famous red gravel from Killcare quarry as it is unearthed during construction. The design has been developed by a local landscape designer and volunteer, David Duncan.

It is hoped that, when finished, Runway Park will be a delightful place to be enjoyed by local families, knowing with pride that their community made it happen. I would like to recognise the work of Tony Winch, Rod Unsworth, Julie Aitchison, Darrell Pannowitz, Melissa Chandler, Mark Nitsos, Debbie Sunartha and other community members who have contributed and worked so hard to see this project become a reality. I also commend the investment of the federal, state and local governments in backing this project. 

Making things happen for Robertson

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