I was up at Mt Alexander Regional Park on Sunday checking out the main walking trail loop for our forthcoming guidebook, The Goldfields. I’ve done the Mt Alexander walk at least four times, the last time in 2005 for our Daywalks Around Melbourne guide. What really struck me on Saturday was just how run-down the walking trail infrastructure has become. Following our map in Daywalks Around Melbourne, we walked the Goldfields Track from McQuillans Road to Ballantinia Track via Dog Rocks and Langs Lookout. This walk has been realigned up through the old Koala Park and now has the distinctive Goldfields Track ‘gold-tops’, walking trail marker posts painted yellow. The grass is currently very high and in places the trail is barely visible and the gold-tops really help.
Despite this the trail along this section of the walk is what I would classify as in average to poor condition. Signage could have been much better (no sign at the junction leading to Leanganook Picnic Area is especially confusing) and the trail is in need of urgent maintenance and erosion repair, particularly under Scorpion Rocks (the boulders midway between Dog Rocks and Langs Lookout). The trail leading up to Shepherds Flat Lookout is currently impossible to locate and the signage is either non existent or falling to bits. The walk up along Ballantinia Track was enjoyable and much better than I remembered it, most likely due to the fact that no vehicles have used it, probably since the January 2011 floods.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the day was the southern section of the West Ridge Walking Track which is links Dog Rocks carpark to a small carpark just west of Leanganook Picnic Area. This trail is marked by Parks Victoria on the Mt Alexander Regional Park Park Notes. Parks Victoria also have info boards in the park showing this walk in detail. Interestingly there is no signpost indicating the start of this walk in the Dog Rocks carpark and we could only find a single very old marker post 200m into the forest. After a long search in the undergrowth we finally gave up looking for this trail. It seems to have been reclaimed by the bush.
Mt Alexander Regional Park is a major recreational asset due to its close proximity to the growing regional centres of Bendigo and Castlemaine, and its now quick and easy access from Melbourne along the new Calder Freeway. Instead of developing and maintaining important walking trails to encourage people to use this beautiful reserve Parks Victoria it seems is just letting them slowly decay away. As I’ve said before, it’s all well and good to put in walking trails, but there must be a budget to make sure that these trails are regularly maintained. It’s such a shame that for one reason or another Parks Victoria don’t seem to be able to do this in Mt Alexander Regional Park.