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Horseshoe Bay School Environmental Reserve

The European settlement of Horseshoe Bay began early in the 20th century with beach huts at the mouth of the mangrove estuary, where a boat could be launched and retrieved with ease.

The Horseshoe Bay State School was opened on this site in 1953. An earlier school, privately built by Mr Bill Swenson, a local pineapple farmer, had operated at 13 Heath Street from about 1949, staffed by an Education Department teacher.

In December 1971, Cyclone Althea wreaked havoc in Horseshoe Bay, washing out the main road, damaging the jetty and destroying several houses, whose occupants were forced to leave Magnetic Island. Student numbers were so severely depleted when classes started in the New Year that by May 1972 the Education Department was forced to close the school permanently. The remaining students were transferred to Nelly Bay. The Picnic Bay State School had already closed in 1970.

The wooded lot adjacent to the school was used historically as a dumping ground. A large number of radio parts, batteries and old drums were dumped under the trees, where they remained for many years.

Elsewhere under the trees a large infestation of sisal hemp (Agave spp.) had become established, probably from dumped garden waste, and by the 1950s was marked on some local street maps.

Horseshoe Bay School Environmental Reserve

The wooded area is low lying and during the wet season retains fresh water for a number of months. The high areas are Moreton Bay ash woodland, while on the lower swale areas weeping paperbark and pandanus swamp are found. Historically, good-quality silica sand was extracted for local concreting here. These areas are known as borrow pits have many sedges and native ferns fringing their edges due to the seasonal ponding of fresh water well into the dry season. Due to the absence of fire, many rainforest species of plant are now colonising this woodland. In years to come it is likely that this woodland will eventually become a closed forest with rainforest affinities.

In the late 1980s a number of local residents began restoring the wooded area, removing the sisal, guinea grass and woody weeds and establishing the interpretive trails. Clean Up Australia Day operated from the site for 5 years from 1990. The restoration work then extended to the lagoon during the 1990s and by 2002 a new walking track stretched across Horseshoe Bay, accessing the diverse habitats of the dune forms, wetlands, beach and estuary.

The schoolhouse underwent extensive repairs in 2002 and returned to its function as a critical feature of Horseshoe Bay's social fabric.


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