The City has acquired 500 hectares of land to provide for the capture and treatment of urban stormwater runoff from the Armstrong Creek development area. The natural and constructed wetlands will occupy around 200 hectares with all areas subject to flooding at times from the Barwon River.
The Sparrovale-Nubitj yoorree Wetlands Master Plan was adopted in July 2021. The Master Plan divides the development of the wetlands into three phases:
Phase one (2019-2022): completion of major drainage infrastructure works, pest plant and animal control, protection of threatened flora and fauna;
Phase two (2022-2030): establishment of public reserve, plus continued pest plant and animal control and revegetation; and
Phase three (2030-2040): connection of the Barwon River Trail to Geelong, and promotion of Sparrovale Wetlands as a key tourism, environmental, cultural and recreational site for the region.
Currently access to the site is restricted as it transitions from farming activities and construction works on new wetlands and flood management.
Along with Lake Connewarre and Hospital Swamps, Sparrovale forms part of the largest area of remaining native vegetation in the Geelong region.
Sparrovale is a part of the Barwon River floodplain and supports a diverse range of salt marsh, sub-saline marsh and freshwater wetland vegetation which are reliant upon the dynamic wetting and drying regime that has been operating on the highly modified landscape for over 100 years.
The City will seek to maintain this balance and diversity as more stormwater is added to the system from adjoining urban development areas.
Sparrovale provides habitat for a large number of migratory shorebirds and waterbirds including sharp-tailed sandpipers, whiskered terns, a variety of ducks, herons and stilts, as well as brolga. The existing vegetation and wetlands provide important habitat for frogs and fish.
The Barwon River floodplain and wetland environments provided an abundance of seasonal food and resources for the Wadawurrung including game which could be hunted and materials used as weapons and for domestic and medicinal purposes. Strappy vegetation was used to make baskets and to build fish traps.
The name Ngubitj yoorree, which means wetlands, has been adopted for the overall Sparrovale Wetlands Reserve. The name Boot boot-a, which means swampy place, will also be used to identify the 140 hectare natural river floodplain area directly adjoining Lake Connewarre.
In 1849 the first racecourse was built on the site and it was the first home of the Geelong Racing Club. Facilities included a large timber grandstand and its own railway branch line. The course hosted the Geelong Cup from 1872 to 1906.
In 1905 the racecourse was moved to its current location in Breakwater and the Geelong Harbor Trust took over management of the land to set up a progressive dairy farm.
The farm was called Sparrovale ,after ER Sparrow, the secretary of the Geelong Racing Club. The farm had a boiler and refrigeration plant for milk, steam traction engines to pull ploughs and a small tramway to move fodder and other materials. A levee bank was constructed to protect livestock and crops from regular flooding from the Barwon River. The farm was a financial drain on the Harbor Trust so it was sold into private hands in the mid 1930s.