Paronella Park, near Innisfail, is the legacy created by Jose Paronella, a prodigiously productive person. Born in Catalonia, Spain, and trained as a pastry chef, Jose emigrated to Australia in 1913. He started as a sugarcane-cutter, then worked at improving sugarcane farms before investing his savings and energy into creating Parronella.
Inspired by Catalonian castles and the modernist architecture of fellow Catalonian Antoni Gaudi, Jose created his own dreamscape around Mena Creek in the 1930’s. Revegetating the cleared parts of the site, Jose planted 7,000 native rainforest trees. He harnessed Mena Falls, installing Queensland’s first hydro-electric power system, which has since supplied his rainforest castle-home and public entertainment park with renewable energy and gravity fed fountains.
Paronella Park suffered severe damage from flooding in 1946, and Jose died two years later. The family maintained the estate until they sold it in 1977. A mysterious fire in 1979, floods in 1994, 1996, and 2009 and damage from Cyclones Winifred (1986), Larry (2006) and Yasi (2011) severely impacted Paronella. But in 1993, Mark and Judy Evans became the new custodians of Paronella and made it their dream to keep Jose’s dream alive.
Today you can still see Jose’s hand prints on the hand poured concrete of Paronella. But alongside his 20th century vision of tropical Catalonian paradise grows the most ancient rainforest on Earth. Fork fern, King fern, Selaginella, Queensland kauri, Bowenia, Davidson’s plum, Hope’s cycad and Blush silky oak all call Paronella home. Alternately nurtured and battered by far northern Queensland’s wet, tropical climate, Jose’s built landscape is clothed with life. Visitors today will find much inspiration in Paronella Park. It has become a living, breathing, organic whole, at one with its juicy jungle.
1st July 2013