As usual, the March meeting of the AG had a very full agenda, which we struggled to complete. The main discussion was an update on the Grampians Peak trail. Dave has mentioned in his piece just what a huge task this is, and now here is the somewhat more detailed presentation the AG were given. The money for the trail ( $30.2 million) has to be spent by September 2019 so there is a real urgency now. The finished track will be 144km long (61km existing track, 83km new), with 10 hiker camps, 1 new school camp, several trail heads and carparks, with waymarking, interpretative signage, link and maintenance tracks. In addition an online booking system and phone apps need to be developed. A massive task. At this stage no funding has been set aside for maintenance equipment and facilities (such as quad bikes to service the camp sites) and there is no expectation that roofed accommodation will happen on park land. Potentially in the budget are water storage and preparing guidelines for roofed accommodation in case a future government allows it. Nice to have, but not currently funded, would be mobile phone coverage and seed funding for tracks to lodges outside the Park.
There are three staff working on it fulltime.: Project manager Mark Gallon, “paperwork manager” Annie Wilson, “ground manager” Rod Spinks. Mark reports direct to PV CEO and the Project Control group, who in turn report to the Project Steering Group which also has representatives from Regional Development Victoria, DELWP and local councils. Annie’s tasks include getting approvals from all and sundry. Not just what you would expect: cultural heritage, threatened species, bushfire overlays, but also two Catchment Management Authorities, Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water, plus some roads are local council, some are VicRoads, campgrounds need approvals ….. She is a busy woman! Rod at the moment is dealing with what needs to happen on the ground. The 83km of existing track need to be assessed and some re-alignment will be needed – increased traffic affects the sustainability, and they want to give walkers a really good aesthetic experience. A local volunteer scoping group is walking these tracks and reporting on them, as well as taking a preliminary look at where the new sections of track should go. And of course Annie can’t organise cultural and vegetation surveys until the proposed route is more or less decided in some detail.
The trail will be built in three stages: Stage1 is already under way: get existing tracks up to standard; Stage 2: the new sections where the approvals are simple: Stage 3: the new sections with more complex approvals.
The team are well aware of the daunting task ahead, but confident and committed.