Our event was a combined activity involving Park Staff, Wimmera 4wd club, Horsham bush walkers, Conservation Volunteers and some expert rock climbers. The aim was to collect rubbish and clean up the beauty spots within the park. As the day was a FOGG innovation we were given our choice of location.
12 FOGGs and Matthew (a volunteer from Macau), met at the Reids lookout car park at 9 am. We were met there by Ranger Matt White from Parks Vic, and his partner Stephanie.
Although the view was partially hidden by fog, the day was forecast to be warm, and the sun was already showing its strength. A rollout awning, washing water and chilled drinking water were set up for our amenities. Kitted up with high vis vests, gloves, bags and pickup sticks we were ready to be cleanup warriors.
Our first task was to take apart the destructive rock cairns that have proliferated in the area. Builders of these rock monstrosities are breaking rocks off the natural features, shattering existing stones by smashing them together or throwing them high in the air to shatter on the pathways. They tramp all over the mosses and ground cover plants, and remove the roofs of the homes the small reptiles, marsupials and invertebrates need to survive. These disturbances destroy the delicate balance of nature on the top of mountain peaks, ruining the natural experience visitors come for. Our Chinese volunteer was just asking why they were a problem, when an example of the local reptiles was spotted. A small dragon was a great example of how he blended in with the weathered surface, but not the large expanses of orange sandstone exposed by the removal of rocks. He had nowhere to hide and a long way to run exposed to predators.
Removing the cairns involved dismantling, and placing the rocks back on the ground moss and weathered side up, avoiding the struggling plant life. Some had even been constructed in trees, just to prove how wonderful the builders were.
I am dismayed to have returned 6 days later and discovered that at least 20 have been built already! I wonder if FOGGS could contribute some funds to help pay for a sign explaining that this is not an activity suitable for a national park? There needs to be some information to explain why it is destructive.
After this we then began rubbish collection in earnest. Walking the track to the Balconies (formerly known as the Jaws of Death) we picked up rubbish including glass bottles, plastic water bottles, cans food packaging, cigarette butts, bottle caps, the ubiquitous toilet paper, and three pairs of underpants! We did some scrambling around the viewing area, enjoyed the view, and then retraced our steps to check we hadn’t missed anything. A short, well earned smoko break (but none of us smokers!) consisted of gathering under the awning and sharing biscuits, tea, coffee and some well needed cold fresh water. A half hour was spent around the car park area to do some more rubbish collection, and then we went to meet the other groups at Zumsteins for a barbecue. FOGGs were early so we did some rubbish collection while we waited.
When it came time to cook, I reverted to my former career (chef) and did the cooking as fast and efficiently as I could. After all there were nearly 50 hungry people waiting for food. Why is it that the food is always in the last vehicle to arrive?
A great lunch was enjoyed with time spent chatting to other volunteers, sharing food and iced water, and getting to know likeminded people from the other interest groups that have a stake in the park and enjoy spending time in our favourite piece of the natural world!
Thanks must go to Matt, Tammy and Caity. They were the Rangers and liaison staff from the Grampians National Park. Without their efforts a large group cleanup like this could not have taken place to this level of effectiveness!