From the Parks Desk

It has been a busy summer holiday period in Grampians National Park. According to the latest figures the Halls Gap area saw a 1774% increase in population – from 316 permanent residents to a peak of 5500 people! This was the largest percentage increase across the state of Victoria and evident by the sheer volume of people visiting the national park.
However, the impact on the park has been both positive and negative. It is fantastic seeing so many people out enjoying this landscape, however disappointingly we have noticed an increasing number of people failing to take responsibility for their own rubbish. Please help spread the message of taking your rubbish with you. The photo below was taken by one of our rangers at Silverband Falls Carpark.

Rubbish at Silverband Falls Carpark

STAFF MOVEMENTS: After 3 years in the Grampians as a Volunteer Coordinator and Project Firefighter, Caity O’Reilly has accepted a new marine focused role with Parks Victoria at Queenscliff. Caity will be greatly missed and we wish her all the best in her new position.

Ian Hanson has returned to the team as acting Ranger Team Leader for Park Operations. With over 10 years of experience in the park, Ian will help guide the team responsible for roads and visitor site infrastructure and maintenance.

In the middle of this month we will also see the addition of Jessica Sharp as Grampians Ark Coordinator. Jessica will bring a wealth of knowledge and skills to the role of protecting native small mammals and managing introduced predators.

FIRE AND EMERGENCY: The F&E team have spent the last month completing a range of activities and works. They have responded to several fires, including a large plantation fire at Mooralla on the western side of the park. The team also played a key role in the successful search and rescue operation for missing bushwalker Julio ‘Lester’ Ascui. Looking forward, the team will continue to work on maintaining access to waterpoints and clearing strategic firelines.

This season be sure to keep an eye out for the team in the new Mercedes Unimog fire tanker. This tanker provides increased capability on the fireline and significant improvements in firefighter protection.

ENVIRONMENT AND HERITAGE: The E&H team have been busy with several projects. These have included deploying fox and feral cat remote sensor monitoring cameras throughout the park, searching for new Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby release locations, clearing of vegetation regrowth impacting significant rock art sites, successful funding bids for goat and deer control programs in Autumn, and working with the Catchment Management Authorities on National Landcare phase 2 grants for Sallow Wattle and feral animals.

2016 FLOOD RECOVERY: Key recent works have seen Redman Road reopened. See our weekly road report for further detail on what is open and closed in the national park.

2014 FIRE RECOVERY: At Zumsteins the roof on the middle cottage has been replaced and expert stone masons have completed restoration works to the walls. Contractors are continuing to develop new interpretive signage for the area.

VISITORS AND COMMUNITY: The V&C team have been making the most of the increase in visitors. With two enthusiastic seasonal rangers on board, the team has facilitated four Ranger guided walks, five Junior Ranger kid’s activities and a series of information “pop-up’s” at Mackenzie Falls, Wonderland Carpark and Halls Gap Visitor Information Centre to help visitors better prepare for their visit, provide park specific information and promote the Survive the Heat campaign.

The Grampians Peaks Trail (GPT) continues to evolve and take shape. Contractors have completed work on over 1.5km of steel walkway on the remote Major Mitchell Plateau. This was achieved in challenging conditions over a winter that involved rain, hail and snow.

As a result, First Wannon Hiker Camp has reopened, however access is only from Mt William or Mafeking. The walking track between Stockyard Saddle and Jimmy Creek Campground remains closed for extensive stonework.

Major Mitchell Plateau Walkway

Works on Chatauqua Peak remain on track for completion by the end of March. Visitors are reminded that Chatuaqua Peak remains open via the Bullaces Glen Walking Track.

Feral Cats

News from Mike Stevens

The Victorian Government has indicated it will officially move to declare cats as pest animals on public land in mid-2018 paving the way for feral cat control.

The important next step will involve community engagement to consult on the types of control techniques that will be allowed. Being able to complement large-scale fox 1080 poison baiting with large-scale cat poison baiting could be the next evolution of the Grampians Ark project. Data is indicating that aerial baiting for feral cats is extremely effective during the colder, winter months when natural food resources are scarce and feral cats are under a higher metabolic requirement, thus, less fussy and more willing to eat a bait. It is the type of sophisticated “once-per-year” program the Grampians could deliver, complementing the long-term fox poison baiting efforts.

The Western Quoll reintroduction project in the Flinders Ranges continues to get excellent results – feral cat numbers remain low as a result of large-scale cat baiting and control strategies and quolls are breeding. Imagine if we could return Eastern Quolls, Spot tailed Quolls, Eastern Barred Bandicoots, Eastern Bettongs and more rock-wallabies to the Grampians!

From Our Park Rangers

Ranger Tammy Schoo  has sent us a detailed Grampians National Park Community Update and we have more from other staff. Thank you Tammy, Mike and Tracey. Our readers from afar really appreciate learning more about our great Park from those who work in it.

Update from Tammy:

With winter officially over and Spring (or Petyan) finally here, the Grampians National Park is starting to put on its annual wildflower show. Here’s a few finds from the Northern Grampians recently.

 

Flood recovery

Works were recently completed on the Stapylton and Asses Ears Flood Recovery Packages. Cultural heritage inspections and preservation works have been an important part of the process. After final inspections and gate removals, Asses Ears, along with a number of other roads in the north, will open mid-September.

This means that the only roads that will remain closed (pending further culvert and crossing works) are Redman and Mitchell roads and the annual seasonal closures (until Nov long weekend). Four Wheel Drive Victoria and local 4×4 clubs will be assisting with track clearing prior to these seasonal tracks reopening.

Fire Recovery

The Zumsteins cottage interpretation project is in progress with consultants undertaking background research to gather themes and local stories. Contractors removed a small amount of asbestos from the site which means repair and conservation works will start on ground at the beginning of October.

The Sallow Wattle management program continues in the northern Grampians with the assistance of contractors and volunteer school groups. We’ve seen a fantastic recovery of the Large Leaf Ray Flower in areas where the wattle has been removed.

Environment and Heritage Team

Heathland ‘small patch’ mosaic burning has continued along the Wannon River in the Southern Grampians this winter. Deakin University students are using images captured from the ‘supergrid’ of 170 cameras to monitor habitat and predators of the Long Nosed Potoroo and Southern Brown Bandicoot. It is hoped that over time the mosaic of small burns of varying age classes will support healthy populations that are protected from the impacts of fire in what is a very fiery landscape.

Parks Victoria, Monash University researchers and Traditional Owners met recently to establish a project to undertake a ‘palaeo-environmental’ reconstruction of vegetation and fire history of the Grampians landscape. This research will help inform bushfire history and human use of fire in the Grampians landscape.

Grampians Peaks Trail (GPT)

Spare a thought for the contractors who have been working in freezing conditions on the Major Mitchell Plateau recently. Battling through rain, sleet, sub-zero temperatures and snow falls, the team has moved over one kilometre of locally made steel boardwalk panels and other materials ready for installation over the coming months, as well as completing a huge amount of stone work.

Stage two track upgrades continue at Mt Sturgeon and Lake Wartook and further track upgrades will begin in Spring on the Flat Rock section to the Mt. Staplyton Summit, Mt Difficult Eastern escarpment, Chatauqua Peak near Halls Gap and Mt Abrupt track at Dunkeld.

Parks staff have been working with Gariwerd Traditional Owners to complete cultural heritage assessments along the GPT trail. These assessments have been searching for artefacts and scatter sites along with testing for pathogen spread of Phytophthora cinnamomi.

SPRING SCHOOL HOLIDAY PROGRAM

September is Biodiversity month – come join Park Rangers for some fun and educational Citizen Science activities in the Grampians National Park.

These holidays, Parks Victoria is running ‘BioQuests’ throughout our parks. For gamers that like nature, this activity is for you! Download ‘Questagame’ onto a smartphone, create an identity, join the Parks Victoria Junior Ranger Clan, grab your ’supplies’ and you’ll be on your way… searching for cool plants and animals. Go head to head with park rangers to find the most species in your area and go in the running to win all sorts of cool prizes!!

Did you know the Grampians National Park has its very own Earthwatch Institute Climate Watch Trail? As a citizen scientist you can help us monitor our local species, and the climate over time. The Venus Baths ClimateWatch Trail begins at the Halls Gap Botanic Gardens and makes its way along the Northern side of Stony Creek to Venus Baths. Prior to beginning the walk, visitors are encouraged to download the ClimateWatch app or print off a recording sheet. While on the walk visitors can record the species they see in the app or on the recording sheet. If using the app, the data can be submitted in real-time, and if using the paper-based recording sheet the data can be submitted after your walk on the ClimateWatch website.

To download the app, recording sheets or find out more information visit http://climatewatch.org.au/trails/grampians-national-park-venus-baths or you can join our Rangers on a guided Climate watch discovery walk. Visit Brambuk the National Park and Cultural Centre for further information, check our website or go to www.juniorrangers.com.au  to book in for activities.

Getting out in nature is good for body mind and soul…Recently, in partnership with the Wimmera Regional Sports Authority, Friends of Grampians Gariwerd and Grampians Walking Track Support Group we reproduced the “Grampians All Abilities Walking Guide”. This time round, we have included detailed information on the all-terrain TrailRider and Volunteer Sherpa program in the park; there’s really clear maps and grade descriptions for a variety of accessible walking tracks, including those for prams.

Purchase your copy at Brambuk the National Park and Cultural Centre or download a digital version from our website.
Grampians Peak Trail

Tracey Milne

In her article Tammy said “Spare a thought for the contractors”. Tracey has sent us some photos which show just what it has been like.

She told us that the latest Grampians Peaks Trail Community Update will be available soon.

Eco-Burning In Winter

The Grampians National Park’s winter heathland burning program aims to provide small patches of diverse, new habitat for some of the parks most threatened small mammals whilst leaving large areas of long unburnt habitat that are important refuges from predators. This program targets heathlands throughout the park with a particular focus on areas of long unburnt heath.

Capitalising on clear, calm and dry winter weather days, for the past five years the Grampians team have been burning small patches bordering the Wannon River stretching from Yarram Gap Road to Lynches Crossing Track. The team is working to provide a mosaic of habitat for the nationally threatened long nosed potoroo and southern brown bandicoot. Using only matches to ignite the fiery grasses, in August this year the team burnt a total of five patches covering 18Ha of the 900ha burn unit; the largest being 11ha and the smallest 1ha.

To complement the burning program, a research partnership has been established with Deakin University to camera monitor small mammal populations, foxes and feral cats. One hundred and seventy camera stations have been set up 400m apart and is colloquially known as the Wannon River “supa-grid” for pre and post-burn monitoring. Deakin have recently completed the second year of monitoring and we are eagerly waiting to receive the results – standby!

Mike Stevens

FOGGS have a policy of financially supporting students doing research in the Park, and of inviting them to share their knowledge with us and the public. It is so good that this kind of longitudinal study is happening, and that such a good partnership is in place between our rangers and the Universities.

From Our (Very Busy) Ranger In Chief

David Roberts, Area Chief Ranger, Grampians Gariwerd

We would like to publicly acknowledge the contribution of Ryan Duffy, outgoing Ranger Team Leader Environment & Heritage, as he moves to NSW Parks & Wildlife to take on a new career challenge. Ryan has been a strong member of the Grampians Parks Victoria Team for 7years, and has played a stable and level headed role during times of change. Of note, the Bioscan in 2012, the ongoing commitment to the Brushtail Rock wallabies, the refinement of the Grampians Ark, the initiation of Sallow Wattle control and the relationships established and progressed with research institutions has been outstanding.

Of most significance however, has been Ryan’s dedication to the area of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage. Previously a minor part of the program, Ryan has grown the knowledge and effort of Rockart management and Traditional Owner engagement to a point where we are now actively conserving, cataloguing and evolving our knowledge of management techniques around cultural site management in Gariwerd. Thank you Ryan.

In other Grampians News,

  1. Works are progressing on the stabilisation and conservation of the Zumsteins Pise cottages post the 2014 fires following the receipt of a permit from Heritage Victoria on the 17 January 2017.
  2. Recent media about the rock wallaby colony has been pleasing as we celebrate some small successes, while highlighting the overall challenges of the program
  3. The production of an accessibility guide for the Grampians National Park is nearing completion which will aid people with mobility issues, wheelchairs, prams/pushers and specialist equipment like the Trailrider. Keep any eye out for it over the coming months.

Regards David Roberts

Bon Voyage Ryan Duffy

Email  received from Ryan.

“I recently accepted a job with NSW Parks and Wildlife to assist with a threatened species reintroduction project – http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/SavingOurSpecies/extinct.htm. Not only is the job pretty cool, my wife (May) and I have chosen to move near a larger population centre (Halls Gap is pretty small for a lady from Bangkok) and closer to my parents and sister. We will be moving to Coffs Harbour.

My last workday at PV will be the 24th March. I will be leaving PV with a heavy heart as I have really enjoyed working on some amazing projects, with amazing partners, in an amazing landscape. Highlights include seeing recent rock-wallaby pouch young persisting to adulthood, working with Ben Gunn and ranger Jake Goodes to record 36 new rock-art sites that have been re-discovered in the last 5 years, detecting a quoll on remote camera. In all honesty the greatest highlight has been to work alongside the awesome Parks Victoria crew and volunteers who help us manage this amazing landscape.”

Ryan, we in FOGGS will miss you greatly and wish you and May well as you leave us for Coffs Harbour. We have greatly appreciated the way you have encouraged co-operation with Universities so that learning about the natural values of our Park is so much more available than it used to be.  And as Dave has said, it has been so good to see your work with Jake and our member Ben Gunn on our cultural heritage.

World Ranger Congress 2016

Mark Whyte, Team Leader Assets and Services Grampians Gariwerd  

In May 2016 I was lucky enough to represent Parks Victoria at the 8th World Ranger Congress in Colorado. This tour included a shadow assignment in Yellowstone National Park and recreational visits to Zion and Grand Canyon.

I spent 4 days on a Shadow Assignment in Yellowstone NP and was blown away by the sheer scale of the operation, Yellowstone NP has nearly the equivalent number of employees during the summer months as the whole of Parks Victoria.

The World Ranger Congress was an amazing week, set in Rocky Mountain NP and featuring delegates from 68 countries. On the first morning I had breakfast with Rangers from Finland, Belize, India and a Masai Warrior from Kenya, quite a cultural experience.

It was humbling to hear stories from African, Asian and South American Rangers about the work they do counteracting poaching. Many Rangers act as paramilitary with inadequate training and equipment to undertake their roles, a Congolese Ranger described to me that ‘they were fighting a war on poaching’; the poachers use proceeds to fund weapons and terrorist activities. The International Ranger Federation and the Thin Green Line are doing fantastic work supporting Rangers on the front line.

After the congress I visited Zion NP on the Memorial Day long weekend along with 60,000 other visitors, while hiking the narrows (hiking through a slot canyon) felt like a trip on the subway rather than the awesome adventure that it was, the park coped fantastically well with the record visitation numbers due to a shuttle service. Zion has one road in and out that joins the main visitor sites, this is closed to traffic over the summer months and a shuttle service operates from the local town outside the park. The Grand Canyon also runs a shuttle service to many lookouts on the south rim with access roads closed to traffic.

Visitation management is a challenge for park managers across the world, while the Shuttle Service worked well in Zion and Grand Canyon it is not a feasible option in Yellowstone due to multiple entry points and distances between key features (Yellowstone was originally planned for horse and cart with key visitor sites 30 miles apart or a day’s travel).

A shuttle service could be one method of improving peak visitation management in the Grampians National Park (central corridor), however requires further investigation and planning. The Friends of Grampians Gariwerd were instrumental in assisting with interpretation during the Parks Victoria Wonderland Eco-Shuttle trial that ran in the Park during the early 2000’s. This was a voluntary shuttle and most visitors opted to continue to drive their vehicle. For a shuttle service to be successful in the Grampians NP it would require closing access to traffic at popular visitor sites, providing timely shuttle bus access and appropriate parking options, while working extensively with tourism organisations, local tourism operators, visitors and the local community.

From Our Rangers

The last few weeks have been so frantic for our ranger staff. The very welcome rain has also brought with it many road closures and delays to planned works due to open for the school holidays. So I haven’t been game to ask Dave Roberts to write something this time, but I do have reports from Tammy and Ryan.

From Tammy Schoo: 

Well its certainly been a wet Spring! Parks Staff have been busy throughout the past few weeks assessing impacts from heavy rainfall, ensuring closures are in place for public safety, repairing immediate safety issues and working to pull together timely information updates for communities and businesses. At this stage the rain is set to continue so we would ask all locals and visitors to be aware of the following:

The parks unsealed road network is very soft. In some areas heavy rain and fast flowing water has caused washouts, impacted drains and culverts and removed surface gravel. While we wait for the land to begin to dry out, there are some road closures are in place. These are there to protect your safety—please do not drive around them. Culverts, floodways and creek crossings may be damaged and roadsides are so soft that attempting to turn around could mean you get bogged. Also, sodden soils have increased the risk of tree fall, especially during excessive winds. Be mindful of this when setting up camp or while out visiting the park. Ongoing rainfall may see temporary closures of roads and walking tracks, however most popular sites are currently open. For the latest list of what’s open and closed in the park please visit :
http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/grampians-nationalpark

In Other News…

This week we welcome a new member to the team. Rick Shiner will commence as a member of the roading crew (couldn’t start at a better time really!!) Rick has a great deal of experience working with plant and machinery and if you see him out on the roads in the tractor or grader please give him a wave.

All this rainfall has helped with the movement of aquatic animals. Mark Backman from Nature Glenelg Trust has reported a new Platypus sighting just inside the National Park at Gooseneck swamp. Rainfall events can assist animals to discover new territories.

We are currently surveying for threatened species in the Ararat Hills. If you are interested in assisting please contact Caity OReilly on 0428 553 040 or email

Parks Victoria, with the help of the Friends of Grampians Gariwerd recently participated in the Spring Park BioBlitz. This state-wide activity saw junior ranger members, local community and holiday makers sign up with the Inaturalist App on their smartphones then record and upload sightings of native species at particular locations throughout their local parks. The Grampians designated walk was Venus Baths and there were a number of interesting species found. You can still utilise the app at any time when out and about. All you do is upload a photo and specialists will help I.D. what you have found. Search for the inaturalist app in your app store.

FIRE RECOVERY
In exciting news, Stapylton campground reopened for the school holidays! Always popular with
schools and families, the new campground has sites that cater for groups of up to 16 (or more) at a time, vehicle based camper trailer and campervan sites, standard tent sites and also provides three wheelchair accessible sites.

Works continue to stabilise the walls of the Zumsteins cottages while the protective roof structure is being built off-site. Mackenzie Falls redevelopment plans will be available for community feedback in the coming weeks.

Walking track crews are about to start on the Briggs Bluff walking track.

Reeds Lookout carpark will be closed for resurfacing works during the last week of October.

The Balconies Walking track will be closed for three weeks from October 11th.

Goat control activities (using firearms) will continue throughout the Park.

Grampians Peak Trail

Planning continues to forge ahead particularly around trailhead locations. The next phase of
works will be along existing track footprints. Earmarked for temporary closures in the coming
months whilst upgrades are completed are the Major Mitchell Plateau and Stapylton Loop walks. Further information will be available closer to the date.

 

Closed walking tracks/visitor sites
? Western half of the Mt Stapylton Loop walking track
? Ngamadjidj Shelter
? Gulgurn Manja Art Shelter
? Mt Difcult overnight walks
? Briggs Blu?
? Golton Gorge

Closed campgrounds
? Boreang Campground
? Kalymna Campground and Waterfall
? Troopers Creek Campground
? All bush camps in the Northern Grampians
fire a?ected area, including the Mt Difficult
Hiker Camps.

 

Closed rock climbing areas
Due to the fire closure in the Mt Difcult Range
there are a number of sites currently not accessible. Please see the Rock Climbing and Bouldering Update Sheet for details.
Further Information: Please note – this guide
will be updated regularly, ensure you have the
most recent version by visiting
www.parks.vic.gov.au or by calling into Brambuk
the Natonal Park and Cultural Centre in Halls
Gap, or a local Visitor Information Centre.

 

Grampians NP Community July Update

Tammy Schoo, Team Leader – Visitors and Community Grampians Gariwerd National Park has sent out a comprehensive report to the local community, and I am sure it is of real interest to those of you living further afield.

News in General July 2016
We welcome Ben Thomas to our team in the Role of Grampians Ark Coordinator. Ben brings a wealth of knowledge to the role after holding numerous biodiversity roles with organisations such as DELWP and CVA. The ‘new Ben’ replaces Ben Holmes who has moved to take on a rewilding project in the Little Desert National Park with Conservation Volunteers Australia.

Snow! Yes, we certainly know it’s winter. While it’s not completely uncommon, snow usually falls when the state is at its coldest. The Grampians are certainly very pretty covered in snow and it is a spectacle that many local residents love to see. We do ask that anyone visiting to see the snow comes prepared as conditions on the summit of Mt William can get very cold and windy and roads can be extremely slippery – particularly early in the morning after frosty overnight conditions.

Roads Management

As of the June Long weekend all seasonal track closures have been put in place.

Northern Grampians Fire Recovery Program

A massive recovery program continues in the park, with a few key projects beginning to roll out on ground. Here’s a brief update on all that’s going on…

  • Mackenzie Falls redesign and development: Consultants have been engaged for the Detailed Design and Documentation for the site and the project should begin in the new few weeks.
  • Zumsteins Pise Cottages: Heritage Victoria have issued a permit exemption for critical stabilisation and restoration works on the Orange Cottage. This will see the installation of a galvanised steel protective roof over the Orange Cottage. Other works will be carried out particularly to the blue cottage once the final heritage Victoria permit is finalised for all three cottages.
  • Stapylton Campground Redesign and Rebuild: Works continue on infrastructure installation with completion dates getting closer. Parks Victoria staff recently completed a successful (but wet) Thryptomene transplanting working bee across the site. Mapping of campsites and online booking information is being planned in the background, ready for a reopening in the coming months.
  • Mt Difficult Precinct Works are underway to upgrade the existing track to the summit of Briggs Bluff. A staged implementation of campground and walking track upgrades and realignments will integrate the Mt Difficult area offer with the GPT and support an improved visitor experience in an area of the park that was previously suffering from excessive over-visitation.
  • Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Work to catalogue and register newly discovered and existing cultural heritage sites continues along with conservation works that are planned to commence in July at several sites in the park.
  • Sallow Wattle Action Plan Implementation You may come across large areas of mulched scrub around the Roses Gap area, this is all part of the sallow wattle control mechanical mulching trial. This program is designed to evaluate the most effective control methods for the containment of the invasive weed. Planning for the Sallow Wattle extent mapping (aerial weed mapping) has also commenced to determine the best delivery method.
  • Deakin University Grampians Fire and Fauna Research Project  A paper has been submitted for publication documenting the past 8 years of fire research. The project has reached an amazing 80,000 trap night milestone. Researchers have walked over 3,500km checking and setting traps … that’s the equivalent of walking from Darwin to Melbourne!
  • Goat management activities (using firearms) will continue throughout the Mt Difficult Range over the coming months. The program is all located within the closed fire affected area of the Mt Difficult Range however, we would like to remind all locals and visitors to remain clear of this operational area at all times until safely reopened. Information and maps detailing the
    program is available by calling Brambuk the National Park and Cultural Centre in Halls Gap Phone 5361 4000.
  • Grampians Peaks Trail Plenty of work is progressing both out in the field and behind the scenes as the team continues to deliver construction works and firm-up trail design details on this exciting project. Piccaninny Walk near Dunkeld is expected to be reopened in coming weeks, under suitable weather conditions, as upgrades to the track near completion. Crews have finished a 66-metre long section of 101 steps, carefully placing interlocking stones together by hand from nearby the track.
    Works are now focused on finishing upgrades to key sections of the track and improving drainage to ensure the track is sustainable, caters for more walkers and needs less maintenance. This involves airlifting in specialised small earthmoving machinery. When the Grampians Peaks Trail is completed in late 2019, this section of Piccaninny Walk will join into other new sections of track to link in to the overall Trail. While wet and wintery conditions will slow construction works over the next couple of months, more action will be happening on site over Spring and Summer. We will continue to keep you updated on the latest track openings and closures associated with building the Trail.

Editor’s Note: We also have a separate update with more information on the Peaks trail, which I think I will send out separately, to keep the files a manageable size. Also Brambuk have produced an excellent new brochure on the Park’s cultural heritage.

Meeting at Parks Office with Parks Representatives – 24/06/16

Rod Thompson

On the last Friday in June 2016, FOGG’s members had their annual catch up with Park Management. It was attended by 8 members and 3 rangers, Dave Roberts, Tammy and Ryan.

We were given a basic rundown of the structure of the management of the park, consisting of 2 teams. A park management team which includes Tammy, Ryan, Mark who have all been involved with FOGGs and our activities over the course of the last year. The park team has a total of 14 people under Dave himself. This is complemented by a Fire Management team of 13 staff. The two teams try to work together to manage various impacts, but have to diverge in some areas too. Caity will most likely be continuing in her position as the volunteer coordinator. This is 97% sure but Conservation Volunteers Australia need funding to match Parks Vic. who have funding locked in. The park and the Halls Gap office could easily use 3 or 4 Caity’s (volunteer coordinators).

The discussions went on to cover topics such as fire management and recovery, resourcing of the park and funding of staff.

We had the opportunity to raise topics that concerned us as well as hearing about the things that Dave wanted to inform us of.

These topics included,

  • Funding,
  • Fire management, and trialling of new regimes of control and fuel reduction.
  • Disaster recovery, after all our park has been hammered in recent years.
  • Peaks trail planning and construction, there is only 18 months left to spend the funding that has been set out.
  • Helicopter  flights were raised by the group, but the response from Dave indicated it was more an issue for community patience than environment at this stage as impacts appear to be minimal due to regulations imposed. Hopefully they stick to planning requirements and it’s not a big issue, only the same level of concern as B-double trucks, motorcycles or noisy school groups.
  • Phytothera (cinnamon fungu) impacts were raised by another member of the group. It was noted that water dispersal could be a concern with a wetter season setting in, after many years of dry, but not an increasing issue as impacts have not been noticed yet. Anything off track is high risk for contamination, and if working in areas known to be impacted hygiene is essential.
  • Rock Wallaby reintroduction programs,
  • Sallow Wattle control and eradication.
  • Options for seats or signage at Zumsteins with the funding we have available. With plans afoot to do other works on cottages etc, we can contribute, but delayed until it can be combined with those plans. Anything we contribute needs to fit with the current standards, whether it be signage, or a seat. It was suggested that we could also  put that contribution towards the Wartook/Zumsteins trail. A heavy hardwood or even a stone seat could be done with the use or parks equipment.
  • Signs to discourage stone cairn construction by visitors. It is possible these signs might even cause a resurgence in something they believe is declining.

In other news shared with us, Mark Whyte has just returned from the International Rangers Conference. Its an asset to our park having someone like Mark, young and enthusiastic about the future, especially after the conference that has brought him in contact with staff from parks management world wide. Those of you who have met Mark know what I mean

The new CEO of Parks Victoria is passionate about conservation and scientific studies, using knowledge and evidence to determine the future of National Parks in our state. He has been to the Grampians  three times since appointment (6 months), which bodes well for our park and the support it needs from the seat of decision making at head office.

We finished off the evening with a convivial meal at the hotel chatting about the topics discussed with the staff, and others of our own choosing.