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Opening of the People's Park

On Australia Day, 26 January 1888, Centennial Park was officially opened as part of the week-long centenary celebrations of European settlement in Australia.

The ceremony included the planting of the first trees in what is now known as Cannons Triangle.

Surprisingly, the ceremonial site was a last minute choice – it was still rocky, lacking in soil and the surface unregulated – and the rocks had to be quickly blasted and good soil brought in to fill in the holes to prepare the site for the opening.

The tree planting ceremony took place after the official speeches which dedicated Centennial Park to the people of New South Wales in front of a reported ‘tens of thousands’ of people. The first tree was planted by Lady Carrington, wife of the Governor.

Symbolically, it was a Cook’s pine – named after Captain Cook. In total, 13 trees were planted during the ceremony.

Sadly, poor soil and the exposed windy condition of the area has meant these trees have not survived.

During his key speech on the day, Sir Henry Parkes said about Centennial Park:

In the course of the next few years (this park) will be converted into a place of beauty and joy forever. It will be yours and so long as the land shall last it will be for you, and it is a great obligation that rests upon you as free people to see that no power, no combination, invades your right in the enjoyment of this great boon. It is emphatically the people's park and you must always take as much interest in it as if by your own hands you had planted the flowers; and if you take this interest in it, and if you thus rise to the full appreciation of its great beauty, and your great privileges, the park will be one of the grandest adornments of this beautiful country.

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