Shire of Denmark

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1971 to 1997

New Directions

The composition of the population changed during this period, as a result of a drift from the cities to rural areas. Many people, looking for country towns which offered good economic opportunities, chose Denmark as their target. Retirees and people seeking an idyllic lifestyle on small properties made up the main bulk of the flow from urban settings. By 1980 the population growth factor was five percent and Denmark became one of the fastest growing towns in the south west. This growth rate continues in 1997 at 4%.

The building industry expanded rapidly to keep up with the demand of the rising residential population. The industry also had to build shops, restaurants and holiday chalets to supply the services required by many tourists who visit the area. Denmark has attracted people involved in cottage industries who sell their products to visitors. People are involved in pottery, basket weaving, furniture making, wood carving and turning, and candle making among many other art and craft forms. The hotel (built in 1926) was renovated in 1973, expanding its services to both locals and tourists.

Opposite the hotel in Berridge Park many people are attracted to community functions such as fairs or performing arts. Tourists who visit the park are welcomed by the BBQ facilities and services such as the rental of canoes and paddle boats.

Occupations and business interests have taken new directions since the 1970s. The butter factory closed in 1973 owing to a decline in dairies. There were still 30 dairies but they sent milk to Mount Barker. There was a move back to sheep and alternative stock farms sprang up. They include rabbit, deer, emu and alpaca farms. In horticulture, new fruits have been introduced such as pepinos, avocados and chestnuts. Vineyards have been planted, with wineries opening for the processing of the grapes.

The Old Butter Factory was opened as a winery in 1979. The historical nature of the factory can still be seen not only in the buildings, but in the garden. Here there are examples of old palm trees planted in 1935 by Percy Berridge, once a gardener to the Queen. Today the Old Butter Factory is an antique shop and professional office. Another new agricultural pursuit is in the form of commercial wildflower growing. Wildflowers are grown for the export market. An end of an era came with the closing the Denmark Agricultural Research Station in 1983 after 70 years of operation.

An old industry for the district has been expanded owing to better technology. Commercial fishing for salmon at Parry's Beach is now aided by techniques such as the use of spotter planes, jet boats and strong nylon nets.

The timber industry continues to have highs and lows. Whittaker's Mill closed in 1976 owing to a decline in good wood sources. The highly contentious issue of wood chipping, however, was still pursued by both Whittakers and McLean timber companies. The wood chipping controversy was created by a strong community objection owing to a campaign to save native forest. This was supported by the Australian Conservation Foundation. The McLean proposals for wood chipping in 1981 and 1985 were both rejected. Whittakers took over McLeans in about 1990 but the mill closed in 1992.

The environmental management in Denmark contributes to great political debates. In 1988 the proposal arose to rehabilitate the Denmark River and catchment, to conserve remaining forests, and control salinity.

The Denmark area boasts many national parks, among them the Mt Lindesay and William Bay National Parks. Areas such as Owingup Swamp and Harewood Forest have been made A Class Reserves and management is under the umbrella of CALM. Unique forest and wetland areas have been recognised at a national level by inclusion on the 1996 Australian Heritage Commission's Register of the National Estate. Fourteen significant places have been listed. Some sites include the Nullaki Peninsula, Mt Shadforth and Mt Hallowel Reserves, the Owingup Wetland system and the Jamieson Hill area.

The significance of trees to the Denmark Shire is reflected in the protection given to the Moreton Bay fig tree in Strickland Street when endangered by a development proposal. Further examples of natural features considered important to the community are, Monkey Rock, the urban bushland and the road side verges that dominate the entry into Denmark. Visitors are attracted to the winding Bibulman track that traverses the Shire of Denmark. Parts of it pass through the Walpole - Nornalup National Park near the Tree Top Walk. Another section goes from Lights Beach, over Mt Hallowell, through to Ocean Beach.

Increasing tourism is a reflection of the popularity of the spectacular Tree Top Walk built by CALM at the 'Valley of the Giants'. Nearby Nornalup has felt the impact as more people pass through the townsite. Nornalup is a small community with a diversity of townfolk and housing. The tranquil river with many small boat jetties, is a central element attracting people seeking a serene lifestyle. This includes retirees, holiday makers as well as people who choose to commute to nearby Walpole or Denmark for work.

Innovative community projects have been supported by the Denmark Arts which organises market days for local artists and crafts people on Denmark Reserve. They are influencial in training local performers and organising various arts festivals.

Energetic and enthusiastic striving towards supplying good service for visitors to the area has culminated in a top tourism award and a five star rating in the Tidy Town competition in 1990 and 1992.

Other developments in the period include the following:

  • 1982 Uniting Church opened
  • 1982 Lionsville Homes for Aged opened
  • 1985 New Police Station built. The old station is now used by the Historical Society and Museum.
  • 1988 Golden Hill Steiner School established
  • 1988 Village Theatre Group
  • 1987 Kindergarten opened in Old Post Office, which was moved to a new site.
  • 1987 Denmark Printmakers Association - a non profit community group
  • 1992 Harrington Park named after Donald Harrington Hawes
  • 1993 New Recreation Centre
  • 1993 Life Saving Club is opened
  • 1993 Bushfire Brigades assisted by supplying of an all terrain vehicle
  • 1997 Finding a new site for the Denmark District High School

Denmark's history is one of continual change in direction. Many people, homes and industries have come and gone. The history of the region and the sites and places associated with them need to be recognised for future generations. The Denmark area has already contributed significantly to this cause by setting up the Wilson Inlet, Denmark Timber and Mokare Heritage Trails as well as marking many historical places and sites with plaques.

The contribution of the Denmark Historical Society is acknowledged in providing most of the preceding material.