Peaks Trail

Mark Gallon

Works progress on the Grampians Peaks Trail with a number of upgrades to pre-existing tracks on the alignment being brought up to a sustainable standard and improved with good drainage and stone steps in certain areas.  Approximately half of the 60KM of pre-existing tracks that can be upgraded are under contract at the moment with the balance out for public tender.  We anticipate that the remaining 30km or so of pre-existing tracks on the alignment will be under contract by Summer.

A number of local and interstate Contractors have established themselves on sections of trail between the Mt William summit on the Major Mitchell Plateau to Jimmy Creek and are busy organising materials and set out of the works for this very difficult part of the project.  The work through this section could take up to a year to complete.  You may have seen recent footage on the Channel 9 news showing helicopter lifting of materials into the rugged and remote sites from the Mt William summit.

Field surveys with archaeological specialists and Traditional Owners started on the new sections of track, future hikers camp sites and proposed parking areas/staging points (we call them Trailheads).   There is more than 80 km (potentially around 100km) of new trail to be assessed, thirteen trailheads and eleven hikers camp sites.  Traditional owners will also be collaborating with the design team for the hikers camps over coming months.

Park Update Autumn-Winter

Dave Roberts

Planning works

Cultural Heritage Management Plan field work has been occurring since late May 2017, which will provide management advice around sites of Aboriginal significance including:

  • The Grampians Peaks Trail Walking track alignment
  • The GPT hiker camp locations
  • The new campground at Dead Bullock Creek
  • The formalisation of campgrounds at Coppermine Tk, Long Point West, Long Point East
  • The walking track realignments at Briggs Bluff, Ngamadjidj Art shelter and Golton Gorge
  • And Carparks/Trailheads for the GPT, Dead Bullock Creek and Ngamadjidj.

This planning work will be finalised and approvals granted by the end of September which will mean works associated with Fire Recovery can commence and the GPT development is a step closer to construction on the new stages.

Conserving Victoria’s Special Places

The Environment & Heritage team have been actively working on key landscape projects including Grampians Ark (Fox Control), Sallow Wattle Containment, Herbivore control (Deer & Goat), broader reserve management and fire ecology. Of note is the recent project managed by Mike Stevens around using Volunteers from the Sporting Shooters Association and Australian Deer Association to undertake Targeted Deer and Goat control in sensitive ecosystems. This effort, complimented by our staff and contractor programs will grow the program whereby we can become more effective in our introduced herbivore program.

The team successfully completed another round of Rock Art conservation works in May, which focused on sites in the Black Range SP and surrounding reserves where graffiti and other visitor impacts are being managed and mitigated.

Connecting People & Parks

Our assets team have recently completed an upgrade to the Pinnacle viewpoint with new timber treads. This compliments works completed at Boroka lookout and upcoming improvement works at Reeds lookout/Balconies walking track. The team have also taken delivery  of a new Grader which will greatly assist the team in delivering its annual road management program.

Our visitor & community team have put the finishing touches on the soon to be published and released Accessibility Guide for the Park which incorporates new features like Trailrider information and improved maps.

The year has been very successful for Volunteer engagement and contribution. Caitlyn O’Reilly our Volunteer Coordinator has worked with a diverse range of volunteers achieving over 5500hrs of effort across the entire park area. Caitlyn’s role as it currently stands will unfortunately finish on the 30th June 2017, as it was funded through funding received from the 2014 Northern Grampians Fire. Parks Victoria is exploring alternative funding sources to continue the position as the value is clear and the opportunities are there to continue and grow Volunteer opportunities in the Park.

Providing Benefits Beyond Boundaries

Our Fire & Emergency Team had a quiet Fire Season (thankfully), but have been very active in Fuel Reduction burning, planning and delivery. The Park is implementing its winter burning regime through our heathlands with good results. This type of burning is growing in its importance and is perhaps a window into how the landscape was managed 160years ago.

Key strategic township burns around Ararat, Stawell, Halls Gap and Dunkeld will be a key focus in the next 6-12 months.

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

From the Park Desk

Rainfal DeficienciesUndoubtedly the main talking point around the National Park Office has been how dry the Landscape is, and the implications for us all. Immediately our minds and energies focus on the fire risks to our park and communities which we have had such vivid experiences of over the past 10 years. The dryness is isn’t just a here and now phenomena. We have experienced incredibly dry conditions for the past 3 years which is well illustrated by the diagram.

These conditions not only heighten the Fire risk but also place significant stress on the entire ecological system. Over the past few years, our partners at Deakin University have seen a decline in small mammals across the Grampians landscape as part of their ongoing monitoring into the effects of Fire and now climate has on small mammal populations. It is becoming more and more apparent that rainfall is a key driver for populations, and that when things are wet, we have a response in the positive. However when things are dry, and repeatedly dry, our population numbers decline and become further vulnerable to major changes in the landscape like Fire.  It is during these high stress periods that we believe our Fox baiting programs become even more important to assist small mammal populations in persisting while the climate is dry and the environmental resources are limited. One species which we are pleasantly surprised to report is persisting above our own expectations is the Smoky Mouse(Pseudomys fumeus). Recent work by Melbourne Museum(MV) and Parks Victoria in the Victoria Range has confirmed that this critically endangered Federally Listed species is persisting in isolated gullies despite the big dry and recent severe fire history. Prior to the 2013 Victoria Range fire, the Park and MV undertook the Bioscan which yielded a population of Smoky Mice in the Vic Range of 28 animals. Immediately Post fire that number reduced to 9 and then in 2014 just 3 individuals.

The survey effort in 2015 was expected to result in a challenging data set with Ranger Ben Holmes anticipating “This year [in 2015] we were going back with bated breath – we thought this would be the year that we would not catch any mice”. However 7 animals were trapped including the same 3 from the previous year which tells us that this species is able to persist despite the challenging conditions. PV believe our Grampians Ark Fox baiting program has been instrumental in providing this buffer against predation, allowing the remaining population to stabilise and survive. There’s more information and photos in an article in the Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jan/15/smoky-mouse-could-go-extinct-without-us-looking-say-victorian-scientists

It is both PV & MV intention to continue to monitor these populations where we can, however a recent funding application to assist in the project was denied which is a knockback for the program. Other options are now being investigated.

To all Friends of Grampians Gariwerd members, we hope you had a happy and rewarding 2015 and have great plans for 2016. For the Park, we have a massive year ahead with big initiatives like the Grampians Peaks Trail and the continuation of the Fire Recovery Program to keep us interested. I’ll continue to keep you informed about these projects at key milestones across the course of the Year.

Regards

David Roberts

Area Chief Ranger, Grampians Gariwerd

From the RIC’s Desk

There is plenty of activity occurring around the park at the moment as we move beyond the shortest day of the year and start the climb towards Spring.  The team has been extremely busy undertaking our routine and not so routine tasks, which continues to challenge our resources and our ability to adequately forward plan. In saying this, the achievements of the team is outstanding when you consider what has been thrown our way this year, on the back of many challenging years.

For the Environment & Heritage team, the key interest has been around planning for the next phase of the Grampians Ark program, our landscape scale predatory control program and ensuring we are being really clear and concise about we are hoping to achieve over the next 3 years. We are hopeful that this initiative will be fully funded by DEPI for that period, and therefore we are planning accordingly. The Indigenous Heritage component of the program is focusing on the fire affected area and assessing the impacts, new finds and future management of these sites with the most contemporary advice and involvement from the cultural heritage industry and Traditional owners.

The Visitor & Community Team are extremely busy implementing a significant redesign of many of our campgrounds in response to the new on-line booking system and fee structure. The Parkstay system will allow visitors to the Grampians National Park for the first time to book a camp site in the Park. This is a good thing as it will assist in managing the capacity within our camping areas and ensure the experience isn’t compromised by overcrowding and impacts. The challenge will be to monitor the impacts of Bush camping within the Park, where fees do not apply until the end of 2015.

At a broader scale, Fire Recovery and the Grampians Peaks Trail Draft Master Plan has kept us busy and will continue to influence what and how we do things into the future.  A significant milestone for the Park has been the recruitment of a new Advisory Group. The 15 person group aim to represent a range of views and provide strategic and operation advice to Parks Victoria on a range of topics. The new group which commenced on the 25th June, has a make up of 5 returning members and 10 newly appointed members. I look forward to working with this group and getting them involved in the range of complex issues we face to ensure we seek the best and most relevant views we can.

Dave Roberts

Grampians National Park – An Update – David Roberts

 

The Grampians National Park has had more than its fair share natural disasters. The recent history is compelling with 3 major landscape scale bushfires in 8 years (2006, 2013, 2014, totalling 87% of the park) as well as record floods and landslides in 2011. In dollar terms, the cost of reinstating destroyed assets over the past 8years is fast approaching $10million, the cost however to our environmental and cultural values is more difficult to measure, and requires specific expertise, short, medium and longer term monitoring to understand the impacts negative and/or positive.

 Any impact in the Grampians from landscape scale events is felt hard by the local tourism industry. Annually, the Grampians National Park directly and indirectly contributes an estimated $400million into the Regional economy of Western Victoria(GT 2014). The Park is one of the most popular tourism destinations outside of Melbourne and the 12 Apostle and attracts over 1.3million visitor nights annually. Halls Gap alone has private and public assets that equate to a combined value of $1.6billion dollars (DHS 2014). What does this all equate to…Jobs. At the end of the day, the Grampians National Park supports a huge number of communities, industries and therefore jobs, which is why when these sorts of disruptive events occur, a collective shudder goes through the local community as they know how reliant they are on the National Park and its supporting infrastructure.

 We therefore find ourselves in the difficult position of trying to reinstate assets and facilitate access in very short timeframes, often with limited financial and physical resources. To provide some visitor experience and access to key destinations is critical in the first few weeks of any recovery program. The local staff do an amazing job and have a real instinct for what is possible and how to go about it, which has come with significant practice over the past 8 years. The team are so attuned to the needs and demands, that even while the fire is being fought, local minds and bodies switch seamlessly into recovery mode.  During these testing periods, the staff within the Grampians have showed great resilience, tolerance and adaptability, despite the obvious challenges of seeing your work burnt, melted or inundated time and time again.

 What is becoming clear is that these types of events; floods, fire & other climate related events, are a constant in our landscape. As climate change theories bounce around and the scientist and politicians battle for the public’s opinion, the anecdotal stuff from our small part of the world points to an increase in extreme climatic events, and we need to plan for this.

Simple changes have and will continue to be made including the promotion of various building materials that are inherently fire resistant.  Sandstone is used at every opportunity, the use of steel as often as practical and the use of hardwood timbers not pine. We continue to review our infrastructure needs and where appropriate decommission or downgrade what we offer and where required invest and upgrade sites for the future.

 Our Environment and significant cultural values always struggle for their share of the limelight with these events. As there isn’t an easy dollar value attributed to these assets and therefore their not an insurable item, attracting resources to understand the impacts and then mitigate the impacts where we can is always challenging. Our local team ably lead by Ryan Duffy are progressing some excellent local strategies to not only look at the recent fire, but also the cumulative impacts of the past couple of years on our key environmental assets. Striving for more knowledge and understanding of our ecosystems and their resilience is a key outcome for the team in the coming years.

The Grampians Team are the best placed to work through all these challenges and will ask for the communities advice and assistance throughout the course of the Recovery Program.

Thank you Dave for your hard work and leadership. We are so pleased to have such a quality team here.

From the Park Desk

Grampians National Park – An Update – David Roberts

Dear Friends of Grampians-Gariwerd,

The Grampians-Gariwerd National Park continues to through up new challenges for our communities, visitors and staff. After a period of recovery post the 2011 floods, the park will now embark on structuring up a recovery program to restore, rehabilitate and monitor the short, medium and long term impacts of another significant bushfire – The Victoria Valley/Victoria Range complex.

This fire grew out of 22+ lightning strikes that hit the park during a 24 hour period on commencing the 14th February 2013. The fire put significant pressure on the Victoria Valley community at Mirranatwa when 4 fires merged and impacted on the park and private property interface. The team work of all the emergency services including CFA Volunteers, DSE, Parks Victoria, Victoria Police and Local Government resulted in only minimal property and asset loss on private property on a day of particularly bad fire weather and significant fire spreading potential.

The environmental and cultural values impact of these fires are the real story of this summer. The Victoria Range is known to all as a remote landscape with intact vegetation communities and a cultural richness that is arguably unparalleled in Victoria. Although the fire was listed as contained in early March, it is only very early days in the assessment of the impacts to our significant values. We have however done some very important rapid assessments which will be used to inform government of the overall fire impacts and the need to invest in the recovery program.

On other Park business, I’ve made a few comments under the heading below.

Grampians Ark Predator control: The Ark Program has extended in baited area in lieu of the fire and is now doing intense baiting to help the recolonisation around the fire affected area.

Flood Recovery: The Park is drawing the program to a close with a series of high priority task currently underway. Some important openings will be happening over the next 2-3 months so watch out for future notification.

Grampians Peaks Trail: The development of the Master Plan is nearing completion which will provide a strategic direction, business plan and trail information that will be used to seek funding. Stage 1 from Halls Gap through the Wonderland via Mt Rosea is well on track to be delivered by the end of 2014.

Volunteer Coordinator: Katherine Dyson has been working diligently to plan and progress volunteer opportunities for a range of groups and individuals. The early information shows that participation in the Grampians has increase 4 fold over the past 12 months. We are working hard to secure funding to extend Katherine role beyond the end of her current contract.

Once again Parks Victoria looks forward to working with our key partners to deliver important works across the Grampians and we appreciate the support and enthusiasm members of the community provide us in our day to day works.

UPDATE ON KATHERINE’S POSITION

(see a couple of piccies on our photo page)

Katherine has continued the attack on sallow wattle described in our last issue, with great success. Conservation volunteers, assorted adult volunteers, school camps and scout groups have all worked on minimising the impact of this weed. She has also had groups working on maintenance of seats and tables and other ideas are in the pipeline. Having her as first contact point has really helped the park staff. However, it is only a pilot programme, and in this era of cuts to environmental projects we may have to fight hard to keep the position. Discussion of this is on the agenda for our meeting with staff on April 24th. In the meantime she would like to invite you to a workshop that conservation volunteers is running called ‘in safe hands’ scheduled for 9th April in Hamilton. This FREE workshop is designed for anyone who works as a volunteer within the NRM sector. In Safe Hands is a Safety Management System designed for community groups who work in practical conservation. The content and processes have been adapted from Conservation Volunteers Australia’s own system and are based on our 30 years of knowledge and experience in managing volunteers in practical conservation.  To register please go to the website:   www.insafehands.org.au or contact Katherine direct. Please pass this invitation on to any parties who may be interested.

Recent Openings (From PV with bits from the editor):

Rosea Walking Track – OPEN

Parks Victoria is excited to announce the opening of the popular Rosea walking track.  The Rosea area was badly damaged by the storm event in 2011. Works to this track include a realignment to improve the visitor experience to the summit. Please note the tracks from Rosea to Borough Huts and the Burma Track remain closed.

Venus Baths area – mostly open

The walk on the northern bank is open, with a very pretty new stone bridge over one of the gullies gouged out by the flood. The walk on the southern bank is almost complete. All we are waiting for is a new bridge to join the paths. This should be complete by the end of April.

Zumsteins area – mixed

The work at McKenzie Falls is complete and the walk downstream should be open fairly soon. Work is continuing with the Zumsteins picnic and heritage area, with a celebratory event planned for Spring. Date yet to be advised. Dave Roberts tells me the upstream bridge is complete and looks great. The downstream bridge between the 2 concrete bridges) requires the approaches to be added after Easter then they will also be done. All handrails have been designed to detach from the steel work under significant load thereby reducing the risk of debris building up against them in the future. The concrete bridges will receive new handrail uprights and cabling and will also be completed shortly.

Walking Track Closures

Wonderland: Wonderland Loop, Delley’s Dell, Mt Rosea to Borough Huts (including Burma Track)

South-east: Teddy Bear Gap, Kalymna Falls, Kalymna Falls to Boundary Gap Bomjinna to Mt William Carpark

South-west: Mount  Thackeray, Billimina Shelter, Manja Shelter, Chimney Pots, Fortress

Northern: Mackenzie River Walk (from the base of the falls to Zumsteins), Golton Gorge Loop, Tilwinda Falls

Road  Closures:

Areas affected by the recent fires are still closed while assessments are done and works commenced. A detailed list is available from tourist offices and the PV  line 131963. It is most important that we respect this.

Please take care in the open areas of the  Grampians National Park. While walking tracks and roads in the Park are open, visitors are advised that the maintenance standard may be less than normal or expected. Due to the continuing dry weather, the park roads are still very dry, dusty and corrugated and drivers need to drive with care. The small amount of rain we’ve had this week has done little to alleviate the dryness or allow us to recommence our maintenance grading program. Staff have carried out further resurfacing works on the Pohlner’s Link track near Mt Zero, The road surface is still quite loose so drivers will need to take care.