I’ve driven past thousands of times since I moved to Canberra in 1985, but last weekend was the first time I’ve ever crossed the Vernon Circle on foot to step on City Hill.
You may be able to give City Hill a shallow look as you drive past, but probably your full attention is on negotiating the many lanes, roadworks and traffic lights around it.
Of course, from the road or at a small distance, City Hill looks like a lush grassy tuber dotted with pine trees, a flagpole and on its northeastern edge the structure that encloses the 2013 Centenary of Canberra time capsule. Fine.
But – it’s a big but, and I can not lie – it’s a neglected piece of first-class property overrun by wild rabbits. So close to town, this round park area of Vernon Circle could be a popular and beloved green space frequented by city workers and residents. Instead, it’s Canberra’s navel of shame.
If you want to cross between City East and West (maybe from New Acton to Canberra Theater when a mature couple was the night I ventured on the spot), it looks like a closed path ends a few feet from the curb before you is back to find your own way over. Crossing the hill is a concentration exercise to avoid stepping into the honeycomb of rabbit warrens puncturing grass, weeds and soil. The rabbits have also been busy digging themselves under the pine trees, which has probably compromised the root systems of the trees and their stability.
When we talk about trees, there are several dead specimens, one of which appears to have been burned, while a cluster of young trees encased in chrysanthemum trees is suffocated by weeds. Thistles grow waist- or even shoulder-high. A blue plastic tarpaulin has been clamped tightly between two pine trees to create a temporary shelter, most likely by someone experiencing homelessness.
Public bench seats in various styles and colors have been installed in seemingly random places around the hill, located with the view outwards to enjoy the view, which is particularly picturesque southwest over the lake to Brindabellas.
Aside from the pleasant views, the only sign of hope on City Hill was the thriving native bird life, including Crimson Rosellas and red-rumped parrots.
City Hill certainly deserves a better treatment, which in turn would see it used more by locals and visitors, and also appreciated more. Its potential is waiting to be realized.
Tell us what you would like to see happen with City Hill and Vernon Circuit in the comments or email [email protected]
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