In 1985 Eurobodalla Coastwatchers Association Inc first suggested that there was a need to preserve and protect the native plants of the region. The idea of a 'living museum' of local flora started to take hold and the Coastwatchers put a formal proposal to Council.
The site chosen for the Gardens was a partially cleared 42 hectare site used to provide fill for the building of the Deep Creek dam, the Shire's principal water storage. The land is owned by Forestry Corporation of NSW. Forestry staff and some Councillors and Council staff supported early discussions on the establishment of a native gardens; this was a grassroots initiative, however, led by community, particularly the Coastwatchers.
In 1986 a public meeting resolved to establish The Friends of the Eurobodalla Native Botanic Gardens (In 1996 this organisation became known as the Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Gardens). Members of Coastwatchers took a lead role in those early days.
An Occupation Permit under the State Forestry Act was issued to the Eurobodalla Shire Council in May 1987.
With the assistance of the School of Environmental Design at the then Canberra College of Advanced Education, the Friends prepared a Development Plan during 1987 and 1988. Eurobodalla Shire Council approved a Development Plan for the Gardens in 1988.
This first plan established the concept of the Gardens including a development schedule over a five year period. With the support of the Council limited work began in 1989-90.
The first walking track was roughed out late in 1988 and serious landscaping began in 1989. The Friends of the Gardens held regular working bees and, with support from the Council, supervised an employment scheme that enabled much of the 'heavy lifting' to be undertaken. They established a propagation nursery and constructed the first official walking track.
The tenacity of those who turned the first sods demonstrated their commitment to environmental preservation at a time when environmental issues were not at the forefront of public concern and action. It is an extraordinary example of community action – and of a long term vision which would not be fulfilled in the lifetimes of many involved.
A bushfire swept through the site on 6 January 1994, causing massive dislocation to the Gardens’ development. The Gardens site was totally burned out. The Manager’s cottage, all of the on-site equipment and plant sheds were destroyed.
The devastation did not deter the Friends from rolling up their sleeves and getting on with the work of cleaning out the fire ravaged debris from the site, harvesting seeds, and commencing the replacement of plants and rebuilding infrastructure that had been destroyed.
Friends, volunteers from our local community and Council rallied to clean up the devastated site and begin again.
Council recommitted its support for the Gardens and the partnership between Council and Friends continued.
In 1996 the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology produced a concept plan, which became the basis of all new display garden beds and other developments in the Gardens, including an Herbarium and Visitors Centre site. Development has proceeded as funds and labour have become available.
Construction of the Visitors Centre/Herbarium Building began in 1999 and was completed in 2001. The Shire Council contributed $190,000 initially for the building. Much of the major building work was carried out by contractors. The Friends contributed over $50,000 plus many hours of voluntary work.