Ben Prior Park Official Opening celebrates Coolgardie’s History

Published on Thursday, 25 February 2021 at 8:00:00 AM

Thanks to the generosity and collaborative effort between industry, community and government, Coolgardie’s Ben Prior Park is re-opening with a new and improved look.

The park is one of Western Australia’s largest open-air museums and a cherished piece of Coolgardie’s history. Named after Ben Prior, a prospector that arrived in Coolgardie in 1932 and proceeded to establish a mechanical workshop and fuel business on Bayley Street, the park is home to a large collection of mining and farming equipment, vintage cars as well as statues hand crafted by Mr Prior’s son, Eric.

The Park contains extremely rare mining items dating back to 1894 during the goldrush when Coolgardie was the third largest town in Western Australia.

As an outdoor park, the weather had taken its toll on many of the exhibits over the years, prompting a refurbishment project. The project has seen the renovation of historical items including the replica Bank, installation of pathways, a new nature playground, movement of items to create a historical story, installation of metal interpretation plaques, and the restoration of statues including the iconic Camel Man.

Evolution Mining, the Shire of Coolgardie, and numerous community members and groups pitched in to breathe new life into the historic museum.

Shire President, Malcolm Cullen said the refurbishment project was a wonderful all-of-community initiative.

“Evolution Mining generously contributed over $180,000 towards this project. In partnership with the community, the Shire of Coolgardie restored and preserved items that are key to our town’s mining heritage,” said Cr. Cullen.

“There was overwhelming support from members of our community for this project. The Coolgardie Men’s Shed, Esperance Men’s Shed, MEEDAC, CAPS Kurrawang and Coolgardie Primary School all contributed to the revitalisation, among others.”

Evolution Mining’s General Manager, Greg Walker, provided a background on their support for this project.

“Evolution is proud to have funded the revitalisation of the Ben Prior Park. It pays homage to the history of mining and the role that Coolgardie played in the birth of Australia’s mining industry.
The number of community members who contributed their time and resources to this project should be commended. Community projects such as this, highlight why the Goldfields is such a great place to live,” said Mr Walker.

Local historian Victor (Vic) Dale was an active member of the restoration project and refurbished one of the main features of the museum – a mining headframe.

“It took about a month to strip down and rebuild the headframe. It hadn’t been fixed up since the 50s or 60s and wasn’t up to my tradesman standards,” said Mr Dale.

“It’s wonderful to see the next generation of people in Coolgardie who are eager to share and celebrate our town’s history.”

“I have a real soft spot for Coolgardie as I was here as a child. My father was a wood cutter in the bush and we went everywhere in a horse and cart. I’m retired now and at a point in my life where I have time to give back. I can be the gap between the old Coolgardie and the community it is today – I’ve lived through it and can carry the history across,” said Mr Dale.

“I remember Ben Prior. He was the first person that I remember to start collecting machinery and putting it in one place. It is rare for people to have a vision for tomorrow, but he was one of them. I give credit to that great man – without him many of the items now in the park would have gone to scrap.”

To celebrate the newly refurbished open-air museum, the Shire of Coolgardie is hosting a Grand Opening event for Ben Prior Park on 6 March from 10am. Festivities will include live music and food vans which visitors can enjoy under the shade of newly installed gazebos.

Coolgardie veteran and historian, Victor Dale, will be conducting guided tours through the park from 11am so visitors can learn more about each item, their history and the story of Ben Prior.

The Shire of Coolgardie would like to thank the following community groups and individuals who helped support the project:

  • CAPS Kurrawang
  • Coolgardie Men’s Shed
  • Coolgardie Primary School
  • Esperance Men in Sheds
  • Focus Minerals
  • Owen Daglish
  • Ryan Kippin
  • Vern Potter
  • Victor Churchill Dale
  • Cullen Family

Caption: Local historian, Vic Dale will be conducting guided tours of the community at the official opening event. 

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