Moves to enhance the Wollongong Common, located between the town and Tom Thumb Bowers, as a place of public recreation were advanced in January 1875 when a trust was established to manage the precinct.
However, a delay in promised government funding thwarted efforts to bring about improvements.
"When the Trustees get that amount into their hands, they intend to carry out several improvements, with the view of making the Common more useful and ornamental … few places in the district are so well situated for grass and water as is the Common," the Mercury said.
In the interim, the trust, which included trustee Andrew Lysacht JP, contended with problems including the non-payment of amounts by parties who had stock grazing on the common.
A grant of £200 was finally allocated by the government in April 1875, but did not arrive until 12 months later.
Tenders opened for different works, including the stumping and clearing of the road, from the bottom of Corrimal Street, at Swan Street.
"The Trustees have thus arranged to clear the road from Swan St to the racecourse, which means the whole of the rest of the Common lands and pleasure resorts. It is hoped the Borough Council follows suit by opening and forming Corrimal St to the junction," the Mercury said.
"An excellent and straight road would be provided between the town and racecourse and bowers, instead of parties having to trudge through sand-holes and other obstructions on the route now in use along Harbour St."
In August 1876, the trust received another £200 grant, resulting in tenders being let to remove a section of stumps and "useless undergrowth"; the construction of a culvert to assist traffic travelling to and from the north of the Common and Swan Street; and construction of a well that would "afford a supply of the best water obtainable in that locality to picnic parties and others frequenting the Bowers".
In February 1877, a reward of £5 was offered for anyone with information leading to the arrest of persons caught cutting down trees in the Common.
"It is high time that such strong measures were adopted to prevent the sacrilegious destruction of trees that has been carried on for years on the Commons, and the sooner an abundance of other suitable trees are planted there, the better," the Mercury said.
Genealogy search tip
Sydney’s Botanic Gardens was formed in 1816. For a complete history of the precinct, go to www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au.
Picture: A map of the Wollongong Commons in 1871. Efforts to improve the public recreation area gained momentum in 1875. CREDIT: From the collections of the Wollongong City Library and the Illawarra Historical Society.