MANY Newcastle families have fond memories of visits to Blackbutt Reserve - part of a long tradition.
With 182 hectares of natural bushland, Blackbutt is an urban oasis providing access to nature trails, wildlife exhibits, children's playgrounds and picnic space.
A major program of upgrades at Blackbutt is part of the city council's four priority projects in the 2014-15 operational plan.
Improvements to existing facilities as well as new infrastructure will provide more recreational opportunities.
First up is a new amenities building and wildlife arena at Carnley Avenue. Site preparation commenced in March and work is scheduled for completion in September, weather permitting.
The larger amenities building will better cater for visitors while the wildlife arena will be constructed within the wildlife exhibit to allow visitors to get up close with Blackbutt animals.
The reserve will remain open to visitors during the project and the area's diverse range of habitats and ecosystems will be conserved.
Later plans for 2014-15, subject to funding, include three new shelters, a pathway with connecting stairway and barbecue shelters at Carnley Avenue.
The Newcastle Permanent Junior Ranger Fun Day is on again in the school holidays, on Tuesday, July 8, from 11am to 1pm at Richley Reserve.
Go to the council's website newcastle.nsw.gov.au for more on junior ranger programs.