The site that was to become the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden had been logged in the 1900’s. Many trees were left standing at that time, and a few stumps of logged trees may still be seen. Possibly the oldest tree in Coffs Harbour is a Bloodwood along the Garden Creek Walk.
In 1907, it became a night soil depot. By 1938 the town population of Coffs Harbour had risen to 4000, and there was agitation to clean up “unsanitary conditions” in the several places that had become rubbish dumps. The area adjacent to the night soil dump became the official town rubbish tip, and remained as such until 1964.
Wilson’s Park, as the site was then known, was suggested as A Reserve for Recreation in the original town plan for Coffs Harbour 1950 by Sydney planner, Roy McRae, and this was finally approved in 1959.
Following a canoe trip in 1972, the Ulitarra Society, in particular P. Roberts and Alex Floyd, gathered support from 18 local community organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce, with thorough research and documentation to present to the Shire Council for a Plan for Management of Natural Areas, Coffs Creek.
Council adopted the plan, and requested reservation by Lands Department. In August 1975, Reserve No. 89558 was gazetted for the “purposes of a Botanic Garden”.
There was little or no progress until 1979 when John Wrigley, then curator of National Botanic Gardens Canberra was commissioned to draw up a development plan. In May 1980 a 5-day conference was held on The Development of a Botanic Garden in Coffs Harbour, with the keynote address by the Hon.Sir Alexander Beattie of the Royal Botanic Garden Trust. The plan was accepted, and Mr. Wrigley engaged as a consultant for the embryonic garden.
Early in 1981 the Friends of the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden was formed. Working bees of dedicated volunteers started to remove all sorts of rubbish by the truckload, grub out weeds and unwanted trees, plan walking tracks and generally clean up the area. Council made their first funds available the following year.
Eventually garden beds were formed and planting began. The transformation was really underway. This initial co-operation between Council and The Friends, supported by the Coffs Harbour Community has continued to be the hallmark of the Botanic Garden.