Grampians Peak Trail: Bugiga Campground Report

On 24th July ten of us met at the Mt Rosea Car park for a walk into the Bugiga campground. We headed up the track in very overcast weather and met Mark Whyte the new parky looking after tracks and roads. He escorted us to the campground, we arrived just as a heavy shower came through. We took cover under the shelter and experienced the gale wind sweeping up the mountain gap and straight through the shelter, which has been aligned to take advantage of the view but does not give protection from the prevailing wind. While in the shelter we noted that there were no tables only long bench style seats. The campground has been constructed with steel and timber. The walk ways are all raised timber which blend in with the surrounds, the tent pads are hard wood and also raised. We did note there was nowhere to anchor a tent in lieu of tent pegs in the ground. (there is a railing, but it doesn’t suit all tents).

The walk way is terraced to allow for the slope in the ground and we noted that this could be hard to negotiate in the dark on your way to the toilets. The toilets although iron and rusted brown are a very large structure and very prominent as you walk into the site. We suggested that for future campsites something with more curves and less imposing would be good. All human waste is to be taken off the site and this has presented many challenges.

am sure there will be many lessons learned from this first campsite and hopefully as future camps are constructed along the walk there aesthetics to blend into and with minimum impact on the environment will be achieved. As we were all now very damp and cold we adjourned to the Halls Gap Pub for tea where we were met by our webmaster Frank van der Peet and Sylvia, it was good to catch up with them once more.

Margo had some excellent photos of the campsite in the last newsletter and they were captured on a much sunnier day than the one we experienced.

Wendy

2015 Grampians Wildflower Show

Reluctantly the Community Association of Halls Gap has made the decision not to have a show as such this year. Several of our more knowledgeable workers will be unavailable for a variety of reasons and we couldn’t find a suitable person to take on the co-ordinating role. We haven’t quite let it disappear though. We will have a limited display of flowers in the foyer of the new hub building with free access, and hope to conduct guided walks in the local Botanic Garden and possibly bus tours too for which people will pay. We will sell up to date notes for selfdrive tours too. This means that if some new enthusiastic folk emerge to revive the show they will have some sort of framework to start with.(Pomonal’s native garden show will be on the same weekend, October 3 & 4 ).

From the Editor (also From the President)

Welcome to the Summer edition of the newsletter. Once again I am writing this summer newsletter with worrying news coming in of fires in our neighbourhood, including in our park yet again. The Moyston fire was scary with quite a lot of farmland burnt.  And the Rocklands/ Black Range fire was in that most important state park, under the management of our Grampians team and containing quite a few important cultural heritage sites. The change brought lightning strikes within our park, and a few small but worrying fires, but also rain. It has been a torrid start for the year for our Park staff and still several months of fire weather to go. For Stawell, the whole year was the fifth driest on record,and was the third successive year of below average rainfall, with a particularly dry Spring .

However visitor numbers have improved, and it is good to see how the vast majority are respecting the environment they have come to see. I am not a user of instagram – a social media photo sharing site – but Grampians Tourism set up a Spring Break competition on it which attracted an amazing 350,000 likes to over 4,000 photos, which all had to be of the region’s natural beauty. If only that translated into more money to resource the park.

Since the last newsletter we have had an election and now a new government. It was depressing to see how little both parties promised for the environment. Tourism such as the Peaks Trail yes, but silence on staffing of Parks Vic and DEPI. We will have to keep up the pressure on our politicians.

Once again in this newsletter you’ll find reports from Wendy and myself on the wider committees we are part  of, and reports on our our recent activities. We also have a tribute to Thelma Argall and some notes from the records of the Stawell Field naturalists. Plus an article from Mike Stevens as he tells us about the long-nosed poteroo and encourages those of us who live on the edge of the Park to help conserve them.

To finish, I join with Dave Roberts to commend our local team here. It is good to be reminded of the work of the unsung workers, those he has focused on and the other admin staff. Such a good bunch.

From the Park Desk

David Roberts

I hope all Friends of the Grampians Gariwerd had a wonderful, safe and rewarding Christmas period. The Grampians National Park lived up to its reputation as a great holiday destination with crowds flocking to the area and enjoying the best we can offer. The team here were kept busy servicing the facilities, responding to visitor enquiries, providing customer service and trying to manage the huge crowds particularly through the central corridor.

Over these periods we are fortunate to have 2 additional Rangers join our team to assist in the increased workload. As always, the Grampians have attracted 2 excellent Summer Rangers, Amelia Travers and Matthew White, who are invaluable over the December and January period. They work across the range of our teams functions, provide weekend capacity for customer service and business continuity during periods of extreme weather and bushfires. We thank them in advance for their tireless efforts, initiative and maturity as we rely on them to keep our park ticking at a busy time for all.

I’d also like to highlight again and thank all of the Grampians Team for their continuing professionalism and commitment to the task in the face of emerging challenges. We have very capable people across the entire team who are passionate about the park and their respective roles. I could easily talk about them all, however I’d like to focus on a few key members of the team who go about their work with minimal fuss. The Visitor Facility and maintenance team led by Stewart Davidson and ably assisted by Lockeah Sabbo, continue to provide high standard servicing across the park estate to the ensure the 1million + visitors to the region go away satisfied with their Grampians Experience. We all know that a Clean toilet and having toilet paper is a simple thing, however it is often the element of the visit that supports the overall experience. Stewart and Lockeah with support from the team, continue to service all 12 camp grounds and multiple day visitor sites like MacKenzie Falls, Wonderland and Mt Zero, with little fuss and to a high standard. It is these often unsung members of the team that are the back bone of the operation that keeps the park going and people wanting to come back and experience our spectacular landscape.

As we progress through another long, hot dry summer period, I hope we can continue to stay safe, provide a valued community service and get through the next few months with minimal damage.

Activity Survey Report

Wendy Bedggood

Last year I sent out a survey to help us better plan our activities. I would like to thank all those who responded, around 2/3 of our members which I was very pleased with. One third of our members live in Melbourne or other regional areas and 1 interstate member. Nearly half  the respondents indicated distance or lack of mobility meant  receiving the newsletter  was their priority. We will plan to have a mix of activities on both weekends and a few on weekdays as sometimes that is the best time for our guest leader or speakers. The ‘Nature walks’ was the most popular activity selected, so we will make sure we have several of these throughout the year.

Lunch at Deirdres

Wendy Bedggood

We had about 18 members and partners at our  last activity for the year which was a lunch at Laharum Grove an olive plantation with a restaurant ‘Deirdres’.  Deirdre uses mostly locally sourced, in season produce which was served on platters and we just grazed on each course as it came out. The Olive Grove was burnt during the fires in January and it was good to see many of the trees which are coming back but many have still not sprouted. We discussed some ideas for activities for the coming year and walk destinations.

Piccaninny Walk

Wendy Bedggood

The first Saturday in November, 18 of us met at the Piccaninny car park. As rain had been predicted for weeks with none showing up, I had predicted this day would be the same, not so. A heavy shower came down just as we were about to set off so we all hopped in the cars till it passed. We set off, a fairly easy walk and managed to spot a couple of orchids and a few other wildflowers notably a cute duck orchid and the bronze Caladenia, I had hoped we may have found more in that far southern part of the Grampians, but like the rest of the area the plants were suffering from lack of rain. We did however find some very interesting yellow worms which at first we thought were the single strands of telecom wire, only they moved when we went to pick them up. We had a great view from the top looking out over Dunkeld and surrounding farmland. There was a light shower as we headed back down to the cars, it did stay fine while we ate our lunch and as we were packing up we got hailed on. Despite the rain we had a very enjoyable outing.

Advisory Group Report

Margo Sietsma

The Advisory Group met in December for a very busy afternoon. We always start with lunch and a short time to catch up, then proceed to business.

Dave introduced Caitlyn O’Rielly, our new Volunteer Co-Ordinator to the group (replacement for Kathryn Dyson). I had already met her and in fact we had put together an unsuccessful grant application together back in September.

Caitlyn has her position funded for 2 years, she will be working with School Groups and Volunteers, establishing partnerships with long term groups and with the disability sector with less abled volunteers.

Grampians Peaks Trail Master Plan

The Liberal Government announced funding for the trail to $10,000,000, Labour has committed $19,000,000 and a contribution from the Federal Government up to $10,000,000.

Local governments have been lobbying local members for funding for the trail.

Plans need to be ready after the election as there will only be 4 years for the funding to be spent.

Concerns, from the last meeting, regarding the trail still stand.

Position of Convenor

I announced my decision to retire as convenor now that the new group has been established. I will stay on for the rest of my term as an ordinary member. Members who are interested in taking on the position should send an expression of interest to Dave. The position is decided by PV Management and we felt the term should be 2 years and be spread around through the group.

Discussion about the way AG members can contribute followed. The need for “special interest groups” or sub committees was discussed aligning members’ skills/experiences to issues affecting the Park, such as education, recreation, fire, community engagement, heritage, indigenous culture etc. These groups would meet outside of the AG timeframe and report back at each meeting. For it to work well it will require the broader community to be more aware of the advisory group and a mechanism to make contact with AG members.

Natural values and Cultural heritage

Ryan Duffy provided a quick update on the Environmental projects in the park after the fire and the University studies that have been done in the Park.

Sallow wattle will need to be monitored in the fire affected ground. Seedlings will need to be at least 12 months old before treating them.

The Brush Tailed Rock Wallaby joey is surviving in the colony.

A new art site has been discovered and will be examined by the appropriate specialists .

Other items of news

Walter Zumsteins granddaughter has been in Victoria and has helped Dave with information and photos of the site.

MacKenzies Falls Lease

A settlement between the Lessee and Parks Victoria has been completed, meaning the site has been handed back to Parks Vic to manage. Options will be address in the coming months, which will look at a short term plan 2-5yrs and a long term plan 5+years.

Field trip

We then were taken to look at some of the Mt Difficult Rd fire affected areas and then the almost finished Grampians Peaks Trail – Hikers Camp for Wonderland. We did a loop on the still-closed road from Boroka Lookout round Lake Wartook. It still hurt to see how bare the rocky heights still are 10 months after the fire. Such a hot fire and then such a dry spring.

Advisory Group on Mt Difficult Rd

It was a delightful contrast to get out and walk through a thriving button grass patch.

Button Grass on the Mt Difficult Rd

Next we headed to the camp site being erected for the Grampians Peak trail which I will deal with in more detail separately. It was well after 5 pm when we got back to Halls Gap, where most of us were able to join for a meal at the Indian restaurant and continue our discussions informally.

Update On The Grampians Peaks Trail

Margo Sietsma

Prior to the election both parties made firm commitments to the Trail, and it seems assured that the new government will honour the promise.

The plan is to start with upgrading and building in the popular area near Halls Gap. The first section of the walk starts by following Stony creek past Venus baths, with a new section linking to the Pinnacle track (so not going into the Wonderland Car Park). From the Pinnacle it heads towards Mt Rosea Carpark, with a hikers camp site about a kilometre before reaching the road and there will be a separate camp for groups on the other side of Siverband falls Rd.. The Advisory Group visited the site and I was most impressed. The setting is charming, in low forest with views across to the opposite range. All 12 sites are for a 2 person tent on an elevated timber pad with a timber boardwalk between the sites. There will be an open ended communal shelter with a bench down each side, also on a timber pad. This means that the footprint of the camp site should be kept to a minimum. There is also a toilet, but no fire place and no fires will be permitted. There is no water tank. Under each tent pad is a lockable locker. There will be quad bike access to the site, I am not sure whether there will be a locked gate. But Park staff will be able to easily clean the toilets, and empty them from time to time. Private contractors could support walkers by arranging to deliver tents and food and water so people walk with only a day pack. The VNPA are concerned about the communal shelters, but I think they are an excellent idea. Without them, I think groups of friends would clear areas of bush to sit communally. Also I think that making it comfortable and attractive to walkers will lessen the possibility of private lodges being erected, with an enormously larger footprint.

The walk will continue over Mt Rosea, past Borough Huts to a new campsite close to Redmans rd. They may trial a quite different campsite layout there and see what the feedback is. Each day’s walk will start by being wide enough for two people side by side, then narrow to single file.

There will be a fee to stay at the hiker camps along the trail and the Advisory Group recommended that it be kept affordable to all users.

Round Table Report

Wendy Bedggood

The last Grampians Roundtable meeting for the year was in December. We reviewed the original purpose and role of the roundtable and decided it was still relevant and a worthwhile group to keep going.

It aims to:

  • Improve communication between stakeholders, land management agencies and the community
  • Develop a shared understanding of complex land management issues, including fire management
  • Provide information that can contribute to DEPI and Parks Victoria’s decision making procedures, practices in relation to land management in the Grampians
  • Provide information that can contribute to government policy without being an official or formal source of advice to government.

I represent FOGGs, other members of the group represented are Hamilton Field Nats, CFA, Landcare, Wine growers, Apiarists, tourism industry, rockclimbers, the VFF, CMA’s, councils and the indigenous community, some of these groups are not regular attendees and we will be looking at ways we can help improve their attendance. Of course Parks and DEPI staff  are also present and we have an independent facilitator. Some people wear several hats as they are members of more than one group. We are all struggling with ways to disseminate the information we gain by being on such a group and at present I use this newsletter.

Some of the suggestions discussed in earlier round table meetings have been taken on board during the past two large fires, leading to better response from the community.

Dave Roberts gave an update of the recovery works from the January 2014 fire and how many of the areas where infrastructure is being replaced will be better than before the fire. While many popular sites have been reopened to the public there are still many where the vegetation has been slow to recover and which will hopefully be reopened by Easter next year.

Horsham Rural City Council and Northern Grampians Shire each employed a co-ordinator to assist with activities to help communities from the January fires. We had a report from these two ladies on the activities they have been running and where some of these communities are at with their recovery process. These positions will end in June 2015.