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Healthy Parks – Wealthy People

hpwp

 

For many years the various organisations that have run Victorian Parks have had an objective of increasing visitor numbers. The most recent incarnation, Parks Victoria, has gained a new objective – a greater proportion of Parks expenditure is to be raised from users and less is to be provided through government budgets. Are the two objectives compatible? The recently released Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) and its proposed increases in camping fees assumes the two objectives are compatible. I believe the RIS uses weak research and an avoidance of challenging questions to maintain this pretence. Here is why.

Horizontal equity – merely an excuse for regressive cost shifting:

The fundamental objective of the RIS is cost recovery for camping in parks. This objective is partially justified by the principle of horizontal equity. Stripped to its basics as used in the RIS, this is the principle that all users should pay the full costs of the camping services they use in Victorian Parks. No one group of campers should subsidise another. There are two problems with this simplistic principle.

  • Why should horizontal equity only be applied to campers. Why should it not be applied to day visitors or to those who derive benefit merely from knowing that Parks exist and are accessible? The answer is that campers are more easily regulated.
  • More importantly, the proposed fee structure will apply the same nominal costs to campers irrespective of income and so will discriminate against lower income campers who will be required to pay a greater proportion of their disposable income to camp. Its impact will be felt most strongly by those who choose camping as an affordable form of recreation. This is hardly horizontal equity. It is a form of regressive taxation. This regressivity will change camping behaviour in ways not anticipated in the RIS.

Most camping visitation is to low cost options – suggesting price influences camping choices

Three quarters of camping visits are to basic and very basic camp sites. Currently these sites have modest fees. The high useage suggests price is likely a factor in the choices of many of campers. This issue is dismissed by the RIS using short citations from a study by Deakin University. Too little detail is provided to determine if sample used in the study is representative of the high number of users of low-cost sites. But if the sample is representative, half of the respondents suggested they would choose another option if camping prices rose. This limited evidence of camping ‘price elasticity’ is dismissed in the RIS with no explanation. This is a fatal flaw in the RIS logic.

Price elasticity of camping demand – higher prices will divert campers

The charging of a $13 fee for a basic camp option may have little impact on the use of these facilities. However, most car-based camping sites that have till now been used as low-cost camping options are being re-classified as mid or high cost camping sites. The case of the Grampians is instructive. All eleven car-based camping sites in the Grampians have been classified as mid or high level service. Currently the majority are low cost options. After the new fees are applied, no low-cost options will remain. The daily fee per vehicle in any of these sites will be between $34 and $50 – a rise of between 170% and 300%. This is a very hefty rise. Despite the scale of proposed fee increases, the RIS makes no real attempt to assess the impact on visitation, other than to cite a poorly designed question in the Deakin survey which asked respondents if they were willing to pay a ‘reasonable’ fee. The concept of ‘reasonable’ is in the eye of the beholder. I imagine few respondents would have considered a 300 per cent rise to be reasonable. It appears the survey gave no indication of the potential scale of fee rises. This makes the survey useless as anything other than a tool for opportunistic citation. And this is how the RIS has used it. To paraphrase its argument- campers agree they would pay a reasonable charge. We define a 300 per cent increase is reasonable. Therefore campers will accept this fee increase. This is hardly credible analysis.

The survey should now be repeated and users asked whether the proposed fee increases are reasonable and whether they would be willing to pay them. We all know that the response to these questions would be very different to the repsonse in the Deakin survey. The outcome of the proposed fee increase can be predicted with reasonable confidence:

  • Fewer camping visit: A significant proportion of low income (and possibly other) campers will reduce their visitation to formal campsites. Some may convert to day visitation. Some may not visit.
  • Diversion to commercial facilities: Some current users will make an assessment that the price charged for basic Parks Vic camp sites is significantly more expensive than commercial campsites that offer services unavailable in Parks sites – hot showers, washing machines and camp kitchens etc. They will divert to commercial options. [This raises a suspicion that the fee rise is partly designed to increase the profits of private operators – particularly any future operators buying the new 99 year leases of park land]
  • Informal and illegal camping will increase. The RIS acknowledges that non-compliance with fees is already high (60 per cent). The fee rises proposed will provide a vastly increased incentive for non-compliance. Parks will need to either increase surveillance of informal camping areas, or accept lower revenue and the potential threat to park values.

Is the future will remote campsites be closed due to negative returns?

If maintaining park visitation was considered a real objective of Parks Victoria, much greater consideration would have been given to the price elasticity and cross-elasticity’s of camping. There would have been a serious attempt to estimate the level of fee increase that could be achieved without reducing visitation. The absence of such a consideration from the RIS suggests that revenue raising is now the over-riding objective of Parks Victoria. If the proposed fee increases do reduce visitation, divert campers to commercial facilities and increase informal camping, the revenue estimates in the RIS will be proved grossly optimistic. Little additional revenue will be raised, but visitation will have shrunk.

At the same time, increased illegal camping and non-compliance will require the diversion of Parks Victoria staff, if not to enforce revenue targets, at least to protect park values where these might be threatened by informal camping. This will either increase Parks Victoria’s costs, or more likely decrease the investment of Parks Victoria budget in the rest of the work needed to protect our Parks.

If these predictions become reality, Parks Victoria will face the realisation that many lower level service and remote camp sites will never be self-funding. Given the current climate, the next logical step would be to close these campsites as unviable. This future seems quite at odds with an objective of increasing park visitation. Park visitation will become a recreation only for the wealthy able to afford to stay in the higher level facilities (more than $200 a night) or in whatever up-market facilities are created on the 99 year leases. These will not provide low cost camping. Parks Victoria could then change the logo on its vehicles from “Healthy Parks – Healthy People” to “Healthy Parks – Wealthy People”. This would only require repainting one letter and should be affordable within the currently stretched Parks Victoria budget. At least then we would all know where we stood. Parks exist to serve those able to pay hefty visitor fees. The alternative is a fundamental rethink of Parks Victoria priorities and an investment in credible research.

[Open Spaces: This piece was provided by one of our regular readers and who wishes to remain anonymous. It follows on from Glenn Tempest’s short blog/response to the Victorian National Parks Camping and Accommodation Fees Regulatory Impact Statement (Healthy Parks, Wealthy People) from last week. ]

 

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Healthy Parks, Wealthy People

Victorian National Parks Camping and Accommodation Fees – Regulatory Impact Statement
The Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) has released a proposal for a user-pays approach to charges for camping and roofed accommodation in parks and reserves managed by Parks Victoria.
Victorians are invited to provide comment on the regulatory impact statement by 22 November 2013.

I just emailed the following response to the Victorian Government/DEPI (Department of Environment and Primary Industries) in relation to the Victorian National Parks Camping and Accommodation Fees Regulatory Impact Statement. If you feel strongly about these fee increases then I suggest you provide comment by the above date.

……………………………………………

As a regular park user and author/publisher of some of Victoria’s most popular bushwalking and rockclimbing guides I would like to voice my strenuous objection to the proposed increases to camping fees within our parks and reserves managed by Parks Victoria.

Having read the proposal I cannot help but be impressed at the Victorian Government/DEPI in having created one of the most confusing, inconsistent and badly worded documents that I’ve ever read. Was this proposal rushed or is it deliberately obtuse?

There are so many issues regarding these proposals that it’s difficult to know where to start. Firstly, however, I have to say that I’m astounded at the size of the proposed increase in camping fees. A fee of almost $50 for an individual to stay one night at a campground designated as having a ‘high’ level of facility and service is simply outrageous. If these massive fee increases are intended to drastically lower the number of overnight visitors to our parks and reserves then you are definitely going about it the right way. Especially affected will be those in our society who are less well off. My suggestion is that instead of promoting ‘Healthy Parks, Healthy People’, Parks Victoria can change its message to, ‘Healthy Parks, Wealthy People’.

Many park users are travelers who don’t plan ahead but simply ‘roll-up’ to various campgrounds. So who thought it was a good idea to confine those park users to an online booking system upon arrival at the campground? A smart phone and a credit card appears to be the only solution but plenty of people still don’t own a smart phone (although if you confine our parks to wealthy users then this may not be such a problem!). Unfortunately even those with smart phones are not always going to get reception. I hope that Parks Victoria will take a lenient view of all of those (roll-ups, gray nomads, etc) that will end up breaking the law through no fault of their own.

One certain result of these proposed campground increases will be that many park users will turn to bush camping to reduce their costs. Unfortunately this will result in an increase in environmental damage. This proposal indicates that substantial bush camping fees will also be introduced. As a regular bush camper I cannot wait to hear exactly how this will be policed. It’s simply not fair that an already overworked and greatly diminished Parks Victoria staff be turned into a rural version of Melbourne’s ticket inspectors.

Cheers,

Glenn Tempest

………………………………………

Written submissions should be forwarded by 5:00pm Friday 22 November 2013 via either of the following:

Post
Camping and Accommodation Fees
Land Management Policy Division
Department of Environment and Primary Industries
Level 3, 8 Nicholson Street
EAST MELBOURNE VIC 3002

 

Online
Email: camping.RIS@depi.vic.gov.au

DEPI RIS Page link: http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/forestry-and-land-use/visiting-parks-and-forests/national-parks-camping-and-accommodation-fees

Fact sheet: http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/205971/Victorian-National-Parks-Camping-and-Accommodation-Fees-Regulatory-Impact-Statement-October-2013-Fact-Sheet.pdf

RIS executive statement: http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/205519/Victorian-National-Parks-Camping-and-Accommodation-Fees-Regulatory-Impact-Statement-October-2013-Executive-Summary.pdf

RIS statement: http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/205517/Victorian-National-Parks-Camping-and-Accommodation-Fees-Regulatory-Impact-Statement-October-2013.pdf

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The Tipperary Track: Trail Update

Wombat Creek Foot-bridge
Karen on the Tipperary Track
Winter on the Tipperary Track, Daylesford. Hepburn Regional Park.

It was a miserable wet and cold mid-winter’s morning when Karen and I dragged ourselves out of the warmth of a Daylesford Cafe and started out along the Tipperary Track. For the first kilometre or so we debated as to whether this was such a good idea. Maybe we are getting soft but the thought of another round of tea and toast was almost too much to resist. Eventually the drizzle moved off elsewhere (probably to Trentham!) and small daubs of watery blue sky appeared between the low cloud. We had decided to brave the elements to GPS the Tipperary Track for our next Goldfields walking guidebook. I was also keen on updating some of the details, which have recently changed.

Wombat Creek Foot-bridge
Wombat Creek Foot-bridge still waiting to be built.

Since the floods in early 2011 some sections of the Tipperary Track have been closed. Almost all of the bridges had been damaged or washed away, which prevented walkers using the western side of Sailors Creek and therefore reducing any loop-walk opportunities. This has been a real shame as it’s one of the best and most popular walking areas within the Goldfields region. Recently Parks Victoria reopened The Blowhole area so that walkers can access the full length of the trail, which is also part of the now very popular Goldfields Track. Three foot-bridges are still to be either finished or built. The two foot-bridges spanning Wombat Creek and Sailors Creek at Twin Bridges have concrete foundations but still no steelwork. The third bridge is located at Tipperary Springs and although closed it looked very close to finished. Probably the most solid and flood-proof of all of the bridges is the massive new stepping stones across to Bryces Flat. To me this appears to be the best and cheapest way to build bridges, especially in country that regularly sees alternating periods of drought and flood.

The Blowhole
The Blowhole. The Tipperary Track, Daylesford. Hepburn Regional Park.

According to Parks Victoria the foot-bridges will be ready by this spring. Let’s hope so. If you are intending to walk the Tipperary Track right now though, you should be aware that without the bridge over Wombat Creek you will need to continue walking down the water-race on its southern side to cross the Midland Highway before entering the picnic area at Twin Bridges. It’s not a real hassle but just watch out for the traffic when you cross the bridge.

We arrived at The Blowhole just as the day was warming up (it must have been all of 8 degrees) and were now enjoying ourselves. The Blowhole was gushing with water and made for a fairly impressive sight. We continued on through Breakneck Gorge, which for me is the best part of the walk. The creek tumbled over it’s stony bed and the gorge’s narrow walls glistened with green moss. Every now and then a ray of sunshine penetrated the cloud and slid over a tree or a rock.

Isn't it about time Parks Victoria dragged this wreck from Breakneck Gorge?
Isn’t it about time Parks Victoria dragged this wreck from Breakneck Gorge?

Finally we left Sailors Creek behind and walked up along Spring Creek, again following a wide water-race overlooking the willow-infested creek. Somewhere down there was Liberty Spring, now no longer maintained. Not far along we reached Golden Spring, which is unfortunately still capped, although there are plans to repair it it some point. By the time we reached Jacksons Lookout it was getting late in the day. The steel and timber tower was very rundown and because of the surrounding trees there are no real views to enjoy. Jacksons Tower was something of a disappointing climax. Half an hour later and we were at Hepburn Springs Reserve. We had covered almost 17km in just over 4 hours. The cafe was shut and it was almost dark. A quick phone call and the taxi arrived a few minutes later. Soon we were back at the car at Daylesford Lake. We pulled out of the carpark just as it started to rain again.

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Silver Mine Walking Track

The Silver Mine Walking Track is located in the Snowy River National Park, one of Victoria’s most remote and least visited semi-alpine regions. By the time Karen and I parked our vehicle at the start of the walk at McKillops Bridge I had a fairly good idea as why so few people visit this place. The drive down McKillops Road is nothing short of frightening. Narrow, slippery and pot-holed, this veritable goat track winds down a seriously steep mountainside that was scarily reminiscent of the so-called roads I’ve too often encountered in the foothills of the Indian Himalaya. I for one was glad to have made it down to the Snowy River alive. I was still feeling wobbly-kneed as we set off along the Silver Mine Walking Track and I had to put in a big effort to keep up with Karen’s usual brisk pace.

Signpost at the start of the walk.
McKillops Bridge and the Snowy River.

After just a few hundred metres we joined Deddick Trail, which is actually a wide vehicle track. It was now becoming obvious to me that whoever named all of these roads and tracks definitely had a twisted sense of humor. Just as I was wondering how much more climbing we were going to have to do the signposted walk left Deddick Trail and plunged back down into the valley along Silver Mine Track.

Cliffs along the Deddick River Valley.
Wildflowers poke through the old tailings heaps.

Although the descent is very steep there are some wonderful views across the river towards Little River Gorge. A couple of old silver mines also help keep your mind off the relentless pounding of knees. By the time we reached the Snowy River we were getting very hungry. Anybody that knows Karen will also know that nothing is ever going to get in the way of a good lunch (or breakfast or dinner for that matter). We arrived at the Overnight Hikers Camp and made our way down to the river-bank where we spread out a feast of dips, ham, cheese, bread and fruit. We lazed on the warm rocks, dangled our feet in the cool water and watched a pair of eagles soaring high in the sky.

Up the steep Deddick Trail to the top of the range.
Cypress pine log cabin. Old silver mine relics.

 

After lunch we rejoined the walking trail, which now headed away from the river following a small heavily eroded gully and passing a few more long-abandoned silver mines. The remains of an old pine log cabin gave us some idea as to the hardships that these miners must have faced. The walking trail soon started climbing again and took us through stands of tall cypress pine via a long series of switchbacks. The unusual pine forest was reminiscent of walking through the valleys in Nepal. On top of the spur we made a short detour to the lookout. Here we could see the glittering Snowy River as it twisted and turned along the wide sandy flats. Today the river is but a shadow of its former self and I couldn’t help wondering what it must have looked like before we tore its heart out and redirected its once mighty flow into the Murray River, all in the name of progress.

The last section of the walk continues through more cypress pine forest and eventually we rejoined Derrick Trail at where we passed earlier in the day. We got back to the car at about 5pm.

Cypress pine forest.

The Silver Mine Walking Track is 16.8km, not 18km as the official signs indicate, nor 15.5km as the free park notes indicate. The walk takes about 5 hours but allow 6 hours to include lunch.

I’ve described the walk in detail in our recent Daywalks Around Victoria walking guide ($22.95), which is available from the Open Spaces online bookstore or from outdoor adventure stores and book shops.

You should also check out Parks Victoria Snowy River National Park page and download their Silver Mine Walking Track PDF.

The Snowy River, Snowy River National Park, Victoria.

NOTE:
The McKillops Day Visitor Centre is closed from 23 May to 15 June 2012 due to a goat control program. This almost certainly means that the walk will be closed also. McKillops Bridge is also closed for repair works until 22 June from 8am to 4pm. Check with Parks Victoria on 13 1963 for details.

 

 

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CliffCare – the lowdown

While much of my working week takes place at Open Spaces (I work here 3 days a week) I also work part-time for the Victorian Climbing Club and CliffCare as the Access & Environment Officer. Some of you may be familiar with what my role entails and what CliffCare is about but there is a pretty fair chance that many of you may have no idea what I am talking about. I did briefly touch on this in an earlier blog

CliffCare is a Trust – The Victorian CliffCare Trust. This is administered by the VCC and in simple terms is the environmental arm of the club.
In short CliffCare’s aims:
Education – promoting ‘low impact’ climbing
Advocacy – negotiating with land managers to maintain access and re-open popular cliffs.
Protection – organizing work parties and raising money to preserve the cliff environment.

CliffCare aims to take a proactive position when it comes to these aims rather than a reactive one which tended to occur in the past. With a strong partnership developing with various Parks Victoria offices, our hope is to be able to look after the areas in which we climb in a way which is more conducive with climbers as well as taking into account other park users and the environmental interests of the parks themselves. Constant budget cuts to Parks Victoria which noticeably affect their resources, including staff, mean that more and more often, these kind of partnerships with usergroups will be required if we want areas to stay open and managed well. Many of the areas in which we climb are often off track as in PV managed tracks. What this means is that as they are not official tracks etc, PV are not required to maintain them. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be maintained nor that PV will just turn a blind eye. Considering the fact that for the most part, climbers are the ones that predominantly use these tracks and areas, well – it should be that climbers are the ones to maintain them. All of this though, requires volunteers and that dreaded word…..money. While the VCC might administer the funds and some percentage of membership fees do cover some aspects, the costs associated with having an Access & Environment Officer, materials, tools etc are all dependant on the Annual CliffCare Raffle and enough donations coming in. Some projects have been lucky enough to be funded by a grant but these are getting fewer and far between and it does seem that with the current Victorian government, that anything that has the word ‘environment’ in it, is first for the chop. So now more than ever, donations are a vital component of the continuing success of CliffCare and for the climbing community, the safeguarding of the cliffs access and care.

This year has been a bumper year for works going on at a variety of areas and cliffs.I’ve made a list of workdays so far, some pictures to see some of the work, links to more pictures and if you’re feeling so inclined, the link to the donation site. And if you would like to help out on one of the many working bees we have lined up, please drop me a line and I’ll send you the details cliffcare@vicclimb.org.au

Next workday coming up this weekend!

Araps Climb & Repair (Pharos Gully project) 10th March,2012

Mt Rosea climbers track repair 14th April,2012

Araps Climb & Repair (Pharos gully project) 28 Apr 2012

Climb & Repair You Yangs 12 May 2012

The Gallery Track Repair, Grampians 26 May 2012

Araps Climb & Repair (Pharos gully project) 9 Jun 2012

Araps Climb & Repair (Pharos gully project) 18 Aug 2012

Mt Rosea landslide gully before

Mt Rosea landslide gully after
Pharos Gully summit staircase
Bundaleer, Grampians. Protecting the Manic Depressive area for cultural heritage

 

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Parks Victoria: Death By a Thousand Cuts.

This Easter weekend some state and national parks are facing industrial action by Parks Victoria rangers belonging to the Community and Public Sector Union. Most likely this will involve the locking of gates to parks which have single points of entry. The union has been in ongoing enterprise bargaining negotiations with the Victorian Government, having stated that Parks Victoria staff have not had a pay rise in almost two years. The sticking point is that the Baillieu government is refusing to increase its offer of a 2.5 per cent annual pay rise, plus whatever trade-offs can be obtained via productivity improvements. What makes this all the more unpalatable to the rangers is that 48 executive officers in the Department of Sustainability and Environment (the department that overlooks Parks Victoria), have shared a windfall bonus of $655,000 for the last financial year. That is an average of $13,645 for each officer.

Interestingly, the Baillieu government has declared that they will have no hesitation to putting on non-unionised strike breakers’ to re-open the park gates to the public. Environment Minister Ryan Smith commented that “It’s extremely disappointing to hear that the unions are trying to lock Victorian families out of our parks this Easter weekend”.

On the surface this may appear to be a simple wage dispute, but in fact it’s just a symptom of a larger and much more serious disease. It’s no secret that Parks Victoria is suffering from chronic underfunding. Parks and reserves across Victoria are seeing the results of decades of government cut-backs. These funding cuts effect our parks and reserves in many ways. From the supply of basic amenities (such as toilet rolls), all the way to establishing and maintaining user facilities such as walking and mountain bike trails as well as creating new management and environmental plans for the future. Looking after our public spaces is, quite simply, a massive job and if it is to be done correctly it will require substantial government funding.

The Cathedral Range State Park (just outside Melbourne) is a good example of just how much things have changed. Fifteen years ago there were three rangers looking after this very busy park (and the nearby small Buxton Gum Reserve). Over the intervening years the number of rangers have been reduced until today there is only one ranger visiting the park on two days a week. Other Parks, such as Mt Beckworth Scenic Reserve and Mt Alexander Regional Park are good examples of public lands that have been all but abandoned due to lack of funds.

Regular readers of this blog know that although I’m a big supporter of Parks Victoria I’m also very critical of the gradual disintegration of our parks and reserves. Many Parks Victoria rangers do an amazing job in increasingly difficult circumstances. One of my ranger friends commented that ‘productivity improvements’ was in fact government speak for ‘saving money’. For bushwalkers this usually means letting walking trails and signage vanish. Fewer trails and lower maintenance means less money spent. Projections indicate that Melbourne will have a population of 5 million by 2020. With increasing numbers of users visiting our parks the question we should be asking is how exactly are Parks Victoria supposed to do a good job with correspondingly less money to spend.

Over the Easter period the following parks may be closed. Before we start getting angry with the rangers who are closing these parks perhaps we should consider the much bigger picture.

1. Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens
2. Braeside Park
3. Buchan Caves Reserve
4. Cardinia Reservoir Park
5. Churchill National Park
6. Coolart Historic Area
7. Dandenong Valley Parklands
8. George Tindale Memorial Gardens
9. Lysterfield Park
10. Maribyrnong Valley Parklands
11. Maroondah Reservoir Park
12. Mount Buffalo National Park
13. National Rhododendron Garden
14. Organ Pipes National Park
15. Pirianda Gardens
16. Point Cook Coastal Park
17. Serendip Sanctuary
18. Silvan Reservoir Park
19. Tower Hill Reserve
20. Upper Yarra Reservoir Park
21. Werribee Gorge State Park
22. Wilsons Promontory National Park
23. Woodlands Historic Park
24. You Yangs Regional Park

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Mt Arapiles – Taking care of the magic

As many of our readers will have noted, the staff at Open Spaces are involved in various aspects of the outdoor industry.  Whilst OSP is a big part of our lives, the reason why we are here in the first place is because of our  interest and experiences in that area.  Besides climbing, one of my other jobs feeds very well into my OSP role.  Working as the VCC Access and Environment Officer for the climbing community allows me to get involved not only in helping to maintain access for climbers at the many parks but also to work on projects at the cliff environment.  One such project that I am working on currently has been ongoing for about 4 years now.  The Pharos Gully Repair project is a labour intensive one – to dry stonework the entire Pharos Gully Track from bottom to summit.  The track is used by climbers and walkers alike and due to its steep nature, the erosion is quite severe with further loss of vegetation creeping out wider and wider. So with the help of some funding from Parks Victoria, CliffCare and Friends of Arapiles have rounded up regular volunteers to help out at the working bees to move  rock up and down the track so that the stonemason can work his magic. We employed Walter Braun, who is a climber himself and an experienced stonemason to dry stonework the track. At about 2/3rds completed, the track is looking great and some of the sections completed a few years ago are now ageing well with vegetation growing in and around the stonework.  And this is exactly what we want and why dry stonework is the way to go.

Arapiles has had a great last year and a half.  Of course we are heading into winter now and at this time of the year, everything usually is starting to look green.  What was amazing to see though was the greenness that continued throughout summer this year.  Granted the floods brought a huge amount of water to the area but before that Arapiles and its surrounds were still getting a regular fall.  In previous years, throughout the drought, the mount had lost a lot of older trees. They held on for as long as they could, but there were many that were stressed to the point of no return.  With the rains, came the opportunity for new vegetation to get a good watering in.  CliffCare and Friends of Mt Arapiles revegetated a number of areas with plants supplied by Iestyn Hocking and Heather Phillips who collect seed and grow indigenous plants and grasses from the area.  Many of these plants are now thriving and can be seen along the lower part of the Pharos Tourist track.  As the old pines are dying in the Pines campground at Mt Arapiles, they are being removed. Rather than replant with the original Radiata pines, native callitris pine seedlings were planted in 2008.  These are all healthy young plants now.  To protect them further as they grow, stakes and chicken wire were placed around them to ensure that they can stand up to the many campers that the campground sees.
Even if you don’t climb, Arapiles really is a magical place to visit.  From its birds of prey to the small robins and bee eaters.  Shinglebacks and frilled neck lizards and occasionally a goanna or two.  Wallabies, cockatoos, lorikeets.  And with 500 native species in the park, you could certainly tick off a few sightings in your flora book.  It has them all really.  It really is a special place and one that needs to be carefully preserved.

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Marysville Trails 2011

Steavenson Falls from the new lookout bridge.

 

Following the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 pretty much all of the walking trail infrastructure in and around Marysville had been wiped out. I was in no doubt that repairs, rebuilding and realignments of this trail network would be at least a few years away. These fires meant that users of our Daywalks Around Melbourne book no longer had access to the seven described walks (walk 61, 62, 63, & 64 in the Marysville and Lady Talbot Drive area as well as walks 65, 66 and 67 in the nearby Lake Mountain and Cambarville area).

Last week I spent a couple of days in Marysville with Parks Victoria and the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE). I was fortunate to have been shown around the new trail infrastructure by Simon Gough, the Bushfire Recovery Project Co-ordinator for DSE in Marysville, and by Mark Krause, the Assistant Ranger in Charge for the Yarra Ranges National Park. It was a fascinating and very informative tour and I learned a lot about the difficulty in repairing, designing and building walking and cycling trails. DSE and Parks Victoria have done an enormous amount of work since the fires and the good news is that most of the trails are now open. Those that aren’t are perhaps only a couple of months away. Bushwalking always been a major attraction for visitors to Marysville and the reopening of these trails will be seen as an important step towards recovery.

Here is a listing of the walking trails in Daywalks Around Melbourne and their current status.

Walk 61 (Island Hop & Red Hill) The new walk is called the Michaeldene Trail and is a circuit following some of the original historic tramlines. The major attraction is a wooden platform overlooking the rushing Taggerty River. The circuit walk is currently closed but will hopefully be open before winter.

Walk 62 (Keppel Lookout & Stevenson Falls) Now called the Steavenson Falls Trail there has been some major realignments (especially above Steavenson Falls). The trail will be open in the coming spring and I have no doubt that it will be an even better walk than it was in the past.

Other trails in Marysville that are nearing completion (but which are not described in Daywalks Around Melbourne) include the Beauty Spot Trail (all new timber boardwalks and bridges), Tree Fern Gully Trail (wide compacted gravel surface for walkers and cyclists), Gilberts Gully Trail (new boardwalks and steel bridges) and Wilks Creek Trail (wide multi-use trail out to Anderson Mill site).

Simon Gough from DSE on the Beauty Spot Trail.

Start of the Beeches Rainforest Walk at Taggerty River Crossing.

Walk 63 (The Beeches) Lady Talbot Drive is open as are the two short walks up to Phantom and Keppel Falls. The Beeches Rainforest Walk has also seen a lot of work including the installation of floating boardwalks. This 4km circuit is open except for the timber bridge spanning the Taggerty River. The walk down to the cascades from the first carpark (Taggerty River Crossing) is called Taggerty River Cascades and has had new steps installed down along the river.

Bridge over the Taggerty River on the way to Phantom Falls.

Walk 64 (Boundary Trail) This walk as described in Daywalks Around Melbourne is closed. Boundary Trail West is probably full of regrowth now and may not be easy to locate. However, Keppel Hut has been rebuilt and Boundary Trail East is open to the summit of Lake Mountain. I haven’t walked this section yet, but when I do I will post an update.

Walk 65 & 66 (Lake Mountain) All of the walks and mountain bike trails are open.

Walk 67 (Cumberland Walk) This is now called Cumberland Falls Walk and is open. The 2009 fires thankfully missed much the area around the Big Tree. Parks Victoria have installed a clinometer near the Big Tree which is used to measure the height of the surrounding mountain ashes. This can be used free of charge by the public. There are great views into the Cumberland Valley from the southern part of the walk. Parks Victoria have also opened another short circuit walk in the historic township of Cambarville. This easy loop passes the old Chalet Hubertus, school and sawmill sites. There are interpretation signs along the way.

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Park Secrets

For those people that are a little time poor, be it Melbournites or visitors with a limited travel schedule, this ‘guide’  is an absolute must and will certainly point you in all the right directions.  The deck of cards feature 52 of Victoria’s best parks and nature reserves and contains maps, directions and potential activities for the area.  The selection is diverse and there is something to interest everyone.  For those wanting nothing more than a leisurely stroll, to those hoping to get the heart rate going and possibly engaging in some adrenaline sport.

Park Secrets is published by the very successful Deck of Secrets.  You may have seen other titles of theirs in the range such as Bar Secrets, Spa Secrets and Pub Secrets.

To find out a little more or to order a copy visit our bookshop or visit an outdoor shop and enquire

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Cathedral Range Visitor Updates

Step construction at the Sugarloaf area

With plenty of work going on at the Cathedral Ranges, thought it would be good idea to get the information around. Not only are there major works going on with tracks, the new shelter and toilet facility is being built in the Sugarloaf area along with an Information Board to give visitors a little background of the area.

Laying the slab for new Shelter at Sugarloaf

The Jawbones track will be closed for major track works Monday to Friday from November the 29th until Christmas . This means the only access to the Farmyard and the Jawbone climbing areas is via Ned’s Gully or Sugarloaf Saddle. During this time period the track will reopen on weekends.

Also, please take note of the logging information below. As soon as PV have firm dates for when this work will actually begin we will let you know. St Bernards Track will most likely remain open for sometime yet. However Little River Track will close as soon as any works begin.

Logging of the pines at Cooks Mill will be recommencing this summer. At some stage in the near future machinery will be forming an access track through the central Cooks Mill campground and down the Little River Tr. Then the cutting of pines will begin. Over the Christmas holiday period the only logging activity taking place will be pine cutting from the 10th Jan, and log carting from the 17th Jan – all logging works will cease over the Australia Day weekend Friday, Saturday Sunday and Monday

The impacts logging will have on visitors are:

– Restricted camping around the central Cooks Mill area (Tweed Spur will remain open

– Closures to both Little River walking tr and St Bernards tr

– Sharing the road with logging trucks (after the 17th Jan, and possibly before Christmas)

– Machinery noise after the 10th of Jan and before Christmas.