Grampians Peaks Trail Update

The Peaks Trail team send out a community report every few months. The last one was in November so I won’t put it here but can forward it to you if you ask. Or you can learn more by registering on   to get it mailed to you.

Just a very brief summary: Though summer weather conditions have been harsh, construction works on the Mt Difficult to Halls Gap section remain on schedule for completion by Sept 2019. Parks Victoria is working to identify Cinnamon Fungus, along the trail alignment. Cinnamon Fungus, a microscopic, soil borne pathogen attacks and destroys plant root systems causing plants to die through lack of water and nutrients. It is found across the Grampians and is commonly spread through the movement of contaminated soil and gravel carried by vehicle or foot traffic.

Hiker camp construction is set to start by April.

Follow the progress of the GPT at: https://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/grampians-national-park/plans-and-projects/grampians-peak-trail

Grampians Peak Trail Interpretation Meeting

I represented FOGGS (and the HG Grampians Flora Botanic Garden) at a meeting on October 8. There were five from the consultants’ team and five of us: neighbours, artists and a (local) geologist. (There had been a separate meeting with tourism people).

The consultants have been asked to prepare an Interpretation and Signature Experiences Activation Plan for the Grampians Peaks Trail, with the aim of positioning the Grampians Peaks Trail as a world-class iconic walking experience, showcasing the beauty and majesty of the Grampians National Park’s natural and cultural landscapes.  The consultants’ responsibility is to finalise a plan by early December. Others will then be employed to actually do it.

We were told that the Interpretation and Visitor Experience component will:

  • Leverage, consolidate and ‘re-package’ existing work including earlier interpretation plans;
  • Be reflective of contemporary, world-class interpretation and embrace best practice storytelling and a mix of powerful visual media such as digital, sculpture and furniture, to “engineer profound, destination-specific moments” that assist Parks Victoria in setting a new benchmark for interpreted walks;
  • Outline a limited number of clearly differentiated signature experiences, associated customer journeys and storytelling touchpoints and distinctively and compellingly describe the themes, key messages, stories, interpretive strategies and experiences that accompany each of them;
  • Ensure reference to the broader context of the Grampians National Park and provide solutions to cleverly connect ‘on GPT’ and ‘off GPT’ sections of track;  
  • Be relevant to current and future target audiences and consider multi-lingual needs;
  • Integrate an authentic Aboriginal experience based on stories already approved by Traditional Owners and setting the foundation for the possible integration of additional stories.

There was much more consultant language about “supporting a world class visitor experience” and what they see their role is. What did our small group contribute?  The consultants actually got an interesting conversation going. We talked about what the Grampians means to us, some born here, some long-time residents, one from overseas a couple of years ago. We discussed what we thought would be important elements of the walk experience, the unique geology, the flora, the indigenous and European history, the night sky.

The initial planning is for two experiences.

  1. “The Edge of the Grampians”, from Dead Bullock creek to Halls Gap, 3 days, 2 nights. Emphasis on flora, fauna, geology, indigenous culture.
  2. “The Southern Experience” from Griffith Picnic area to Dunkeld, also 3 days, 2 nights. Again flora, fauna, geology, indigenous culture plus some signage about the agrarian experience from Mt Abrupt.

Identify specific partnership opportunities for the ‘Edge of Gariwerd’ and Southern Grampians experiences across park staff, design, tourism, business, Indigenous and other local communities, to maximise consistent experience development and storytelling opportunities.

The aim is that quality interpretation leads to understanding, which leads to appreciation, which leads to wanting to see it protected.

I will be attending another meeting in December.

Peaks Trail July Update

Traditional Owners are engaged with Parks Victoria through collaborative governance on the Grampians Peaks Trail. The full delivery of the project has been pushed out to 2020 as a result of a native title claim lodged on 27 May 2016 which extends across the entire Grampians National Park. To enable works to progress, and to ensure native title is maintained under section 238 of the Native Title Act 1993, an Integrated Land Use Agreement was signed by the State of Victoria with the claimants on 5 June 2018.

Construction of Stage Two is well underway and continues with upgrades to approximately 60 km of existing walking tracks that will form part of the trail. Stage Two will be complete in September this year.

Approvals for the new works – approximately 85-100 km of new walking tracks and 10 new hiker camps and one school camp – are nearly complete.

GPT Experiences

There will be a variety of experiences on offer including guiding hikes for day walkers, opportunities for school groups. These experiences offer:
?Greater accessibility and flexibility
? Range of options for all levels of walkers
? Variety of three day/two night walking experiences Family friendly opportunities
? An opportunity to explore the natural and cultural heritage of the Grampians National Park

Current Upgrades

Major Mitchell Plateau
The final section of the Major Mitchell Plateau walk from Mt William Summit to Jimmy Creek campground recently opened after upgrades. The walk now features more elevated boardwalk sections as well as specialised rock steps, flagstone paving, improved drainage and track resurfacing.

Mt Stapylton
Mt Stapylton and Mt Abrupt walking tracks continue to be upgraded with the addition of over 500 new hand-built rock steps, flagstone paving, new drainage, a retaining wall, removal of trip hazards and track resurfacing. The walking tracks remain open while works are being undertaken, and will be completed by the end of September.

Trail alignment and hiker camps
We’re currently working through different trail alignment options. Ongoing minor changes to overall distances between proposed hiker camp locations will continue to occur for the duration of the project as on ground scoping continues.

McGregor Coxall have partnered with Noxon Giffen to design the shelter and toilets for each hiker camp. Local and state bushwalking clubs have provided feedback on the current design which has all been largely positive.

Planning and permit approvals

The permit process is progressing for the removal of vegetation under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act with a Native Vegetation Counterbalance Offset Strategy pending.

Approvals have been received for:

  • Cultural Heritage Management Plan
  • Permission to remove vegetation under the Environmental, Biodiversity and Conservation Act
  • Local Govt Planning Permit from Northern Grampians Shire Council, Southern Grampians Shire Council and Ararat Rural City Council
  • Permission to establish a new walking track within the Major Mitchell remote natural area (National Park Act 1975)
  • Integrated land use agreement with the Gariwerd Native Title Clam Group

What’s next:

Parks Victoria will be in a planning phase until November to scope works for the new tracks

The permit for Mt Christabel building removal is still pending and work is anticipated to commence in spring when it is drier.

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.

Update On The Grampians Peaks Trail

We don’t have an update from PV for this issue, but it was good to see the project co-ordinator Anne Wilson on WIN TV explaining that experienced hikers from various bushwalking groups are being asked for input to guide in fine tuning the route. So we fervently hope that some items in the similar ambitious proposal at Mt Hotham don’t get reconsidered here in our Park. The VNPA magazine reports that Parks Victoria, in liaison with Regional Development Victoria, is planning a multi-million dollar revamp of the walking tracks between the Falls Creek and Mount Hotham alpine resorts, with the aim of discouraging use by the current self-sufficient bushwalkers, who they say are low spenders. They are aiming at the ‘high-yield’ luxury market, with the provision of privately built and serviced lodges along the track.

The full ‘Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing’ is a five day walk, with four overnight stops generally offering either a tent on the ground (the cheapest option), a tent on a raised platform (the middle option) or ‘alpine lodging’ – luxury huts serviced with bedding and food by a commercial provider. This would introduce privately-operated built accommodation on the so far untouched eastern side of Feathertop. The luxury cabins would have to be serviced regularly by helicopter.

For more on this proposal see the Parks Victoria website.

Margo

Grampians Peaks Trail Update

From Grampians Tourism’s last newsletter.

Extensive work is continuing behind the scenes, with the planning team focussing on finalising the trail alignment and trailhead designs. Parks Victoria is working with Gariwerd Traditional Owner representatives on designs and other project opportunities, like ways to share cultural stories as part of the walk experience. Project planners have also met with a number of key local groups. This includes being part of onsite inspections with bushwalking clubs to discuss designs for hiker camps and trailheads. Parks Victoria will be working with the wider community on options for some of the key trailheads soon.

Grampians Peak Trail – The FOGG Response

Friends Of the Grampians Gariwerd (FOGGs) support in principle the proposal for the Grampians Peaks Trail as set out in the Draft Master Plan and as presented recently at public meetings at Halls Gap, Wartook and Dunkeld.

However we do have concerns around the ‘On-walk hiker lodges’. In the document (page 40) it suggests that 3 lodges would be built along the trail initially, but that this could vary with “market forces”. Does this mean that there could later be pressure to build more lodges so this group of users can potentially do the whole walk using this type of accommodation? In some sections of the document one gets the impression that large sections of the trail will be able to be walked using this style of accommodation. With mega fires becoming a regular occurrence in Victoria and the Grampians having experienced 3 large scale fires in the past 8 years we are concerned about the risks of having such accommodation facilities within the park boundaries. We do appreciate that the restraints on construction imposed by  the various Acts, the zones set out in the Grampians National Park Management Plan, and the bushfire overlays are clearly set out in sections 8.2 and 8.3. We note that there is a reference to “the existing management plan” and as this plan is due for review, we are concerned there could be pressure to weaken some of the zones to allow hiker lodges to be built in currently protected zones. We oppose any private development within the Park; not just for fire reasons, but for ecological and philosophic reasons: the Park is for the protection of the environment: people can enjoy the environment but not at the expense of that resource.

We support the views of the ‘Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commissions’ recent report which favours ‘the development of tourist ventures outside the boundaries of national parks’. We would like to see the trail aligned in such a way as to maximise the use of off park accommodation by licensed tourist operators and individual walkers using their own car shuffles and pickups. The maps on the current plan clearly show where hikers camps would be located and the possible sites for ‘on-walk hikers lodges’ but there is no indication of where off park tourist operators may be able to pick up and drop off hikers. As we favour off park accommodation over on-walk hiker lodges, we would like to make sure trail alignment allows for the type of access required to carry out such a business. We feel that private investment is more likely to come from tourist operators with off park accommodation than private investment in high risk on-walk lodges. We therefore want to make sure this type of business is properly planned for in the planning stages of this trail (in particular trail alignment with access to current roads and tracks).

On page 49 under ‘Servicing and Access’ it is suggested that servicing of lodges in remote locations could be done by helicopter. We would be concerned if this was to occur as use of aircraft in the Grampians for joy flights and tourist purposes has been opposed in the past. If on-walk lodges are constructed they must be able to be serviced by current roads or tracks in the park.

This draft says many good things about the need to protect the environment, and we appreciate the planned careful design of the trail and the hiker camps. We also appreciate that it recognises the important role of the Friends group and the VNPA. It would be a tragedy to let inappropriate commercial interests damage the good will surrounding the project.

Thank you Wendy for drafting our response, which was endorsed by the committee.

PS I am told that well over 100 responses have been received, with many of them echoing our concerns over commercial lodges within the Park. To quote from one passionate local  “These Hiker lodges will require high service from the private operators, concurrently the private operators will expect high service from PV, if they do not get it they will whine to Grampians Tourism/Tourism Vic, then to politicians.

These lodges will only be profitable at a certain scale and tariffs, they will not generate any income for the park, even worse they will cost the park (PV) scarce staff time and money to service.  Not to mention their impact on the environment and the remoteness/wilderness of the Grampians.

Parks Victoria spends too much time catering for tourists as it is – how many staff in PV – Halls Gap are there to promote/service tourists Vs. looking after the place!! (and minimising the tourist’s impact).

Grampians Peak Trail – Project Update May 2014

The trail will be constructed over a number of years in a staged process. The track and hiker campsites form the basis of the core infrastructure necessary. To create the Trail will require the development of approximately 80km of new trail and the upgrade of 64km of existing trails.

Stage One: Halls Gap to Borough Huts

(3 days/2 nights)

Delivery of Stage One is well underway and includes a three day/two night loop walk from Halls Gap to Borough Huts covering a total of 19 kilometres for the return trip. This stage is being delivered by Parks Victoria through $1.3M in funding provided on behalf of the Victorian Government by Regional Development Victoria.

 Stage One achievements to date:

  • An 8.7km track realignment from Mt Rosea to the Belfield Fire Line is complete;
  • Development of a design manual which sets a consistent style for tracks, bridges, signs and hiker camping areas across the whole trail;
  • Detailed planning for the new 24 people capacity hiker campsite at Mount Rosea and construction of a new footbridge over Fyans Creek;
  • Construction of a lookout platform at Mount Rosea;
  • The location of a group camp on Stony Creek road close to the Mount Rosea Hiker Camp has been determined; and
  • Desktop environmental risk assessment and cultural heritage management plan undertaken for the entire trail.

 Stage One Works Remaining

Planning requirements relating to the application of a Bushfire Management Overlay at the Mount Rosea Hiker Camp site are being undertaken prior to any construction commencing.

 Stage Two: Borough Huts to Mount William

The next stage of the project will be extending the trail 13 km from Borough Huts towards Mount William. Planning has yet to commence on this stage of the trail. Victorian Government funding of $1.2 million has been allocated to progress this segment.

The trail is being developed in accordance with the Grampians National Park Management Plan. Existing trails will be used where possible and any trail and associated infrastructure development will be planned to minimise disturbance of sensitive ecosystems, vegetation and fauna.

Fundamental to the preparation of the master plan is the conservation of the natural and cultural values of the Grampians, in accordance with the Grampians National Park Management Plan. Protecting this unique environment is integral to creating an exhilarating and sustainable walking experience. The master plan will consider the services and facilities required to support the long distance walk, including potential opportunities for suitable hiker accommodation within the park, as well as in areas outside the park boundaries. Opportunities for licensed tour operators to guide walkers will also be important.

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If you would like to register your interest in the Grampians Peaks Trail project, and to be kept informed about progress of the master plan, please email Parks Victoria at: