The area occupied by Balyang Sanctuary was once owned by Captain Foster Fyans, who purchased it in 1845 at the first Government land sale. It has on this land that Foster built his permanent home - 'Bellbird Balyang' to remember a young aboriginal who accompanied him in the early days of the Geelong settlement.
The land was mainly used for grazing, as it was low lying and subject to flooding. It was reserved as public open space under the Geelong Planning Scheme 1959, with the local City of Newtown responsible for acquiring the land. Negotiations begun in 1965, by the landowner Mr H.S. Hargraves wished to continue using the land. It was not until 1969 that a price was determined.
Also during 1965, the current Princes Bridge at the end of Shannon Avenue opened. This high level concrete and steel girder bridge replaced an older wooden bridge first opened in 1889. The older bridge was at the bottom of what is now Marnock Road, the current bridge was built with approaches on a new embankment to the west, encircling what became Balyang Sanctuary.
On September 30, 1970 a plan was adopted for the new park. Work commenced on August 1, 1970. Part of the works were carried out using the labour of the unemployed under the Rural Employment Scheme. The cost had been estimated at $81,500, with $67,150 spent by the opening, $53,350 being labour provided under the Rural Employment Scheme. The park was officially opened on August 16 1973 by the mayor of the City of Newtown, as well as representatives of the State and Federal Government.
The park consisted of a main lake with a maximum depth of 2'6" (~80 cm) with bluestone and concrete walls. Three islands were situated in the centre, with public access to two of them via four footbridges. Water for the lake was supplied by two storm water drains at the northern end, as well as pumping water from the Barwon River. 150 car parks were provided in the area, as well as public toilets and picnic tables. A number of riverside walking and bike paths link Balyang Sanctuary with other parks along the Barwon River.
A number of both native and introduced species of bird inhabit the park, including swans, pelicans, Eurasian coot, dusky moorhen, Pacific black duck, mallard, pied cormorant, geese and silver gulls.
Attempts were made remove introduced European carp from the lake in the early 2000s but were unsuccessful, however the extended drought over the summer of 2007 resulted in the lake drying up. Early 2007 saw the Sanctuary upgraded, with the bluestone edging of the lake removed, and the lake rebuilt to closer resemble a natural wetland.
- Balyang Sanctuary: Official Opening Brochure - August 16 1973
- CoGG Media Release - September 2006 - Balyang Sanctuary
- CoGG Media Release - June 2007 - Balyang Sanctuary Upgrade