The January 2011 rains did a considerable amount of damage across the state and Parks Victoria (and other public land managers) correctly responded by limiting access to a number of parks and reserves while risk assessments were carried out. In some cases parks were closed in their entirety (You Yangs Regional Park and Mount Beckworth Scenic Reserve spring to mind). The Grampians National Park was also hard hit with landslips cutting key access roads and some popular walking trails. In March further deluges and high winds saw Wilsons Promontory National Park closed. Recently there has been some criticism in the media questioning why Parks Victoria are taking so long to reopen walking trails and other infrastructure. I understand that risk assessments are necessary (and take time) but what I can’t understand is why some trails are closed for so long afterwards.
A good example of what I feel is an unnecessary trail closure is the Anakie Gorge Walk in the Brisbane Ranges National Park. The Brisbane Ranges suffered quite a bit of damage earlier this year and the Anakie Gorge Walk was closed when its steel bridges and long sections of paved trail were washed away. Prior to this the Anakie Gorge Walk was probably the most popular trail in the park as it linked Anakie Gorge and Stony Creek Picnic Grounds (about 3.1km one way). A great deal of time and money had been spent bringing the trail up to a very high walking trail standard. I’ve always suspected that building such a costly trail in the confines of a narrow-sided gorge (that is by its very nature prone to extreme periods of flooding) was asking for trouble. The recent floods confirmed my suspicions. In the months following the flood a great deal of tree debris was cleared away. As it now stands the Anakie Gorge Walk is very easy to follow having only a few rock-hopping creek crossings to contend with. No big deal. Most average bushwalkers wouldn’t even blink an eyelid at these ‘difficulties’ and there is absolutely no reason that I can think of as to why the walk is still closed.
Of course Parks Victoria must consider safety and liability issues and I understand some of their concerns. On the other hand let’s be sensible about this. A sign could be erected stating that flood damage has occurred to the original walking trail and that walkers should proceed with care. I’m sure Parks Victoria fully intend to rebuild the bridges and surfaces in the gorge once the funding is allocated. But my 100,000 dollar question (only a wild guesstimate) is how long will it take for the funding to be allocated? I suspect it will be a long wait. I also have to question the need to rebuild this walk up to the previously high standard it enjoyed. It will most likely only get washed away again in the future. Such high-quality walking trails have a place in metropolitan parks, but I need a lot more convincing that they need to be built in locations such as Anakie Gorge. What we really need are increased funds for maintaining trails that already exist. I guess my question to Parks Victoria is pretty simple. If the vast majority of walkers can still safely enjoy the Anakie Gorge Walk why is it still closed?