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Honouring Ramon Cowling: Passionate environmentalist’s generous bequest becomes new bushland reserve

Ramon Cowling walking away
Photo of Ramon Cowling

At 23 Stewart Street, Boronia, adjoining Old Joes Creek Reserve, is a 1.5 acre property formerly owned by long-time local resident, the late Mr Ramon Cowling.

Ramon built a house on the property in 1972 and lived there continuously until 2016. An active member of the Knox Gardens for Wildlife Program, Knox Environment Society, Friends of Old Joes Creek and Friends of Chandler Hill, Ramon dedicated countless hours to caring for the plants and other natural assets on his land.

In an interview he gave before his passing, Ramon explained that he “didn’t set out to become an environmental volunteer,” but that it was “a gradual process” that evolved from living on a bush block and learning to identify indigenous vegetation.

Once he had identified this important native flora, Ramon worked tirelessly to safeguard it. As well as his work supporting local environmental organisations, he personally removed thousands of weeds and planted new trees in the area.

Friends and colleagues in local environmental groups described him as energetic and dedicated, saying his drive to continue caring for the land would put many younger people to shame. Ramon himself commented that at 85, he could still “clamber up Chandler Hill,” and many marvelled at his seemingly unending energy to keep returning to the same spots, walking the same routes and consistently maintaining and preserving the landscape.

This work has undoubtedly left a long-term, positive impact on the land, as is evident by its exceptional condition today.

In fact, the property is deemed a Site of Biological Significance, and is home to many local fauna such as Eastern Spinebills, King Parrots and even the occasional Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo. It also contains one of the only known White Star Bush plants in Knox, which is a rare species in the state of Victoria.

The pristine condition of the environment and habitat on Ramon’s land are testament to his years of hard work, passion and dedication and are an example of what one person can do on a local level to make a difference.

Ramon's gift to the Knox community

Ribbon cutting

In the years before his death, Ramon contacted Knox Council with a very special message; that upon his passing, he planned to bequeath his property to Council.

This was an exceptionally generous bequest, and it came with some very specific conditions.

Ramon’s wish was that the land he had preserved and cared for over 43 years would continue to receive the respect and maintenance he had given it. In particular, he expressed his wish that Council provide public access to the adjoining Old Joes Creek Reserve through his property.

In practical terms, this meant that the land would be set aside as a bushland reserve, with all buildings demolished and the property rezoned as a Conservation Zone. He also requested that a walkway be installed on the land to facilitate public access.

Council of course gratefully accepted Ramon’s conditions and after his passing in February 2016, worked for a number of years to thoughtfully and thoroughly complete the work required to meet his wishes.

Celebrating Ramon’s legacy

On 18 November 2019, which would have been Ramon’s 89th birthday, Knox Councillors and Council officers joined with Ramon’s friends, family and neighbours to officially open the newly-named Ramon Cowling Bushland Reserve.

Some of his relatives flew in from as far away as New Zealand and Queensland to attend the opening, commenting that they too shared Ramon’s love of gardening and the environment and felt more connected to him through this celebration.

Knox City Council Mayor, Cr Nicole Seymour said that the Reserve would serve as a reminder of Ramon’s generosity and tireless work for the environment.

“The foresight to create a space to preserve, discover and enjoy our local flora and fauna is an incredibly generous gift that Ramon has given to all residents of Knox,” said Cr Seymour.

“We are grateful for Ramon’s many years of dedication and passion for this community and this land, and proud this reserve will bear his name to recognise his contribution.”

The Ramon Cowling Bushland Reserve is now open to the public to explore and access Old Joes Creek Reserve. Council, together with volunteers from the Gardens for Wildlife program, will continue Ramon’s important work maintaining the biodiversity of this area.

Group photo
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