In the mid 1970s, the riverside reserve at the junction of Ross River Road and Thuringowa Drive became the focus for recreation in Thuringowa. However, it is not generally known that its use as an area for leisure activities began much earlier.
In 1936, the Upper Ross Progress Association approached the Council for permission to establish a tennis club on the recreation reserve adjacent to the Weir; consequently the Rossvale Tennis Club was formed.
Club members from the Upper Ross and Aitkenvale areas constructed the tennis courts over a period of a couple of months from crushed ant bed, bush timber and wire netting. It was hard work but Ruth Kelso recalled there was tremendous community spirit among members who were keen to complete the project.
When completed, members and visitors gained access via a dirt track off the former main road from Townsville to Charters Towers which ran along the riverbank. As the Club developed, members decided to plant a rain tree (Samanea saman) on the west-north-west side of the court to provide shade for members. This species has come to dominate the park today.
World War II bought the tennis club to an end as members disbanded and the courts and equipment disappeared. (Peter Bell, A Short History of Thuringowa, Thuringowa Library Heritage Services, Thuringowa Central, 2000)
When the future of Camping Reserve R72 was being debated in 1968, a decision was made by council that the Recreation Reserve (by now renamed R326) should not be subdivided, but remain intact for community use. The years of wartime neglect had left the reserve overgrown with grass and weeds, and infested with Chinee Apple trees. It had remained unused until the late 1960s, but the growing population in the Upper Ross was creating a demand for recreational open space.
Action to improve the state of the recreation reserve was prompted in March 1968. Brothers Hockey Club made an application to lease land on the camping reserve over the road to develop a playing field, apparently because the land there was less overgrown than the reserve itself. Council's town planner was asked to produce a plan for the development of the neglected reserve. His report said that the reserve was "a most valuable and attractive site, probably the best in the Upper Ross", and he drew up a plan for shared playing fields with a carpark on the western side, and a curved row of clubhouse sites which sporting clubs could lease to build on. (Thuringowa Shire Council Minutes August 16 and September 20, 1968)
During 1970 the health and building inspector's staff went to work in the reserve, poisoning and bulldozing the Chinee Apple trees, carrying out drainage earthworks and mowing the grass. For the first time since World War II the land began to look like a recreation reserve again. The public road along the river bank was closed to traffic, brick toilets were built near the clubhouse sites and the first clubhouses were being built in 1971. A program of tree planting commenced, and the pre-war tradition of planting raintrees in the reserve was continued by Council with an avenue along the river bank. Next there was discussion about the reserve's name. It was being loosely referred to as the Upper Ross Sports Complex or the Kirwan Sports Reserve, and names suggested by the public included Vickers Park, Ross River Memorial Park and Upper Ross Memorial Park. In October 1971, Council officially named the reserve the Pioneer Sporting Complex. (Thuringowa Shire Council Minutes 1970-71; information from Allan Lee).
The past 30 years have seen profound change along the Upper Ross, with the valley blocked by the Ross River Dam, and the land immediately west of the river converted almost entirely from farming to residential use, although further west beyond the subdivisions grazing continues to the foot of Hervey Range. A sense of community has grown up in the new suburbs, and new developments are aimed at meeting community needs for recreation, as well as caring for the environment. Because of seepage from Ross River Dam, the Upper Ross River now holds water all year round, and since farming ended, the river has been used principally for recreation. In places it has been scarred by sand mining, in other places suburban back yards extend to the river bank, and elsewhere the banks are relatively untouched bushland.
Riverway aims to increase the amenity of the Upper Ross, to make it more accessible for recreation and to protect its environmental values. The most conspicuous changes will involve more intensive recreational uses for Pioneer Park and convert part of the park to residential and retail uses.