What the Prez Sez

It’s been an action packed time in the Grampians lately.

Snow, Rain, floods, spring and everything that goes with it.

It’s always a great time of year, seeing young coming out of the pouch, flowers blooming, and plant growth you can see if you watch for a moment. I love it. It’s a great time to be out and about. In the natural world!

The FOGGs are facilitating a project to document the history and work of the founding members of the Stawell Field Naturalists Club. Names familiar to us like Ian McCann, Win Pietch, Dave Munro and others. The plan is to interview them, their families and their colleagues in arms, or to make use of previously recorded interviews. Filming these people in their homes, or in the environment they dedicated their time to studying and learning about. We have a group of 3 very enthusiastic people, who are finding more and more excitement for the project the more time they put in. I am proud that as a group we can support a project like this. There is great knowledge and some great projects have been completed by the Field Nats. We need to record that for posterity, and to help future environmentalists find common ground/enthusiasm for the future. To give them an example to aspire too! I will admit that there is a wistfulness in me that wishes the same could be done for some now deceased founders of our own group. But maybe that’s selfish on my part.

Those who attended our wildflower walkabout had a great time, and saw some great flowers. We had a couple of our dedicated  students come to interview Dave and film his interaction with the group, sharing his knowledge. They were impressed, not just by Dave, but the knowledge of everyone present. I think they now understand why the passion and dedication of interested amateurs should be recorded for future generations. It was gratifying to show someone a few sparse orchids and see the excitement. It was even better when the girls got their own “orchid eyes” on and started to point them out to us. “Don’t step there” “there’s one there too” “look a whole patch of them” it was like a switch, suddenly they got it, they became part of the enthusiastic group instead of just documenting it. That moment is why I love being a FOGG, help introduce someone to new wonders and fascination with the small things in the natural environment.

Our August activity meandering round the Victoria Valley Redgum country was small but enjoyed by all. There were not too many flowers out, but there were some great views of mirrored wetlands, huge old trees that have silently observed the passage of time, and waterfalls that left us spellbound in childlike appreciation. Native and feral animals crossing the roads, birds serenading from the trees, grasses nodding to us as we passed. Then there was a working bee too. A minor price to pay for an enchanting time in the valley.

Our upcoming AGM will be a chance to participate in the decision making of the group, nominate members to the committee and vote on office bearers. If you have a bit of spare time to help out we would love to have you. If you are interested make sure another member knows so they can nominate you. A couple of our long term office bearers would like to bow out and enjoy their retirement, and we need to bring in fresh enthusiasm to keep the group moving forward and attracting members. I hope I have served you well in my term as president. I have loved every moment and am even more proud of the achievements of the group now that I have seen the inner sanctum. If nominated again I will accept. If you want to nominate someone, it’s a wise idea to check with them before putting them up in the meeting.

Bill Gardiner and myself represented FOGG’s at a hastily organised meeting with Park management and interest groups with a stake in the Northern Grampians area. They were looking for input on matters like walking track usage, car park facilities, campsites and access issues. We were also given an update on the Grampians Peaks Trail, and asked for input to some of the planning. Representatives included the rock climbing fraternity, outdoor education, Wimmera 4wd club and some of the businesses adjacent to the park. Stapleton campground reopening is coming! But it has to match Parks Victoria’s standards before it can be opened. And that includes Redgum Bollards to keep tents separate from vehicles. And that is the big holdup. There is not much Redgum available at the moment, and until the bollards are in place for public safety, closed it shall be. I get the public safety thing, but it’s still frustrating.

The impact of heavy rain in the region has been felt within the park and many places around it. For those who attended the Wildflower day at our house, you will be glad it wasn’t a week later. Smiths Rd was destroyed by the flow of water, and impassable to anything but an amphibious tank! At one point the floodgates were opened on Lake Wartook, and the inflow was still greater than the floodgates can release, and the water was flowing over the spillway too. It would have been great to see McKenzie Falls with that flow, but I couldn’t get there, as the northern Grampians road was underwater, and closed for public safety. This leads me to my gripe! Roads are closed for public safety, and to limit damage while they are fragile due to saturation. The people who make these decisions don’t do it lightly. Your ability to use your normal route, or your need to make money is not relevant to that! Suppose the road has eroded under the water. You can’t see it from the surface, you don’t know the risks. Driving on it could cause a collapse. You certainly shouldn’t drive through floodwaters, no mater how well you know the road. Someone leaving the road in flood waters at Zumsteins could suddenly find them self in 10 feet of water trapped in a car! Then rescuers risk their life for someone else. For that reason the experts close the road for everyone’s safety. Is a few drownings worth it so a business can make money, or a tough guy in a 4wd can prove themself? If a sign says road closed its closed for a reason. Stay out, and stop whining about how it impacts you!

It is a difficult balance for management with private businesses wanting to use the park, school groups and volunteers. Tourists, campers and 4wheel drivers all having slightly different needs. And all thinking their own impact is minimal. That is the most difficult part of the balance. If we enter the park we impact on it. Managing or confining that impact for the sake of the environment the park exists to protect is all important. But if people can’t visit and use the park, how do they know it should be protected? How do future generations develop an appreciation of the natural world? What is the minimum required for public safety? There is so much to balance when making decisions, and allotting funds, especially when some of those funds are only available for one part of a project and not its continuation. I don’t envy park management. It’s a tough gig!

I would like to finish off with a little tale from the Wimmera biodiversity seminar. A standard feature of the seminar is a short bus trip. As we were hosted in Dimboola this year that trip took us to the shores of the famous Pink Lake. And it was incredibly pink at the time. After walking and talking along the edge, looking at plants and wildlife and the ways the indigenous people used the lake we came to the waters edge. Uncle Ron Marks encouraged us to strip off our shoes and socks and walk into the lake. No one took the offer. But I did! Trousers rolled up I waded in. The salt crust massages your feet, the water was sun warmed and caressing my legs. The smell of salt cleared my airways, while the reflections of a dead flat surface were a balm to the soul. 150 metres from shore it was still only about calf deep. I stopped and looked back at the shore and the people standing there and missing out. I relearned a valuable lesson right there. Nature is real. Remove your shoes and socks and walk around in it. Feel it between your toes, splash it on your body and enjoy it, listen to it, taste it. Never forget that experience, because that is being truly alive!