Trust keeps dream alive


A local trust is hoping to raise over $150,000 to keep the dream of a native river park in Luggate alive.

The late Lewis Verduyn-Cassels established the Red Bridge River Park Trust in 2014 aimed at creating a 0.4ha park alongside the Clutha River near Luggate Red Bridge.

The site would include a recreation area, native plant nursery and archaeological site.
Mr Verduyn-Cassels had leased the land since the 1990s, working to restore a cottage, establish a native planting programme and research the site’s history, including evidence of Chinese gold-miners and a ferryman who operated a punt in the 1880s.

The land had been acquired under the Public Works Act in the 1980s when there were plans for further dams along the Clutha River.

In 2012, those plans were shelved and Contact Energy began selling parts of the land.
Two years later, Mr Verduyn-Cassels began negotiating for the trust to buy the site for $300,000, reaching a deal in 2015 to pay a deposit and settle the balance in five years.

However, when he unexpectedly died last August aged 60 there was a period of uncertainty about the project as the balance date drew near.

Since then, however, trustees Jeromy van Riel, Anthony Olsen and Phillipa O’Connell have been able to continue the vision of the trust.

Thanks to a donation of $149,000 from the Verduyn-Cassels family, they are seeking $151,000 to complete the purchase.

Due to the uncertainties of the Covid-19 period, Contact Energy extended the purchase agreement deadline to July, so the trust was hoping to raise funds through a givealittle page and honour Mr Verduyn-Cassels’ long-held dream of creating a community river park.

Contact Energy community relations and projects manager Neil Gillespie said they were saddened by the death of Mr Verduyn-Cassels but it was great others had continued the project and were fully supportive of the trust. They looked forward to being able to settle the purchase, he said.

Mr van Riel said the trust was committed to native restoration, stewardship, ecosystem education, and freshwater research, and a fundamental principle was the environment must be protected, restored, and kept healthy, for the benefit of the community.
Being able to ensure future generations have pristine waterways and a place to enjoy the natural environment was the aim of the trust, he said.

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