MTB park planned for Walmer State Forest

Readers of the Castlmaine Mail sports section on June 5 will be aware that there are plans afoot to create a mountain bike network of ‘about 50 kilometres’ in the Walmer State Forest. This forest is already networked by informal and, strictly speaking, illegal trails probably amounting to  rather  more than 50 ks.

MTB track near Dalton’s Tk, Walmer State Forest. The plan is to regularise what are now wildcat tracks.

We’re informed by DELWP  that the project is part of the state government’s ‘great outdoors’ program, set to deliver about $14 million statewide to projects designed to encourage people into outdoor pursuits. It seems the current proposal will formalise some existing tracks in the forest, and add a picnic area to the pine plantation, which is currently being cleared of unsafe trees. It’s believed that some existing tracks will be closed. Over the years, tracks have proliferated in this area.

Bike track [if you can see it] near Dalton’s track, after a ‘management burn’, 2011: if a new recreation facility is created in this forest, will it change management fire practice?

Development of the site will be in the hands of Ja Ja Wurrung work crews, and there is talk of cultural interpretation boards.

As we’ve made clear before, FOBIF is not opposed to programs designed to improve people’s engagement with nature. We are, however, interested in what environmental considerations have been factored into this plan, especially given that the La Larr Ba Gauwa mountain bike park at Harcourt was constructed after extensive ecological surveys. We’re looking forward to talking to the project officer, in due course.

Goldfields Grevillea [Grevillea dryophylla, Walmer State Forest. This plant is listed as ‘rare’. FOBIF is interested in what ecological surveys will be conducted around the MTB project.

Another interesting dimension of this project is that the Walmer forest has suffered from some  pretty savage Department ‘fuel reduction burns’ in the past. It will be interesting to see how differently the area is treated when it’s a developed community asset, complete with trail markers and picnic tables.

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What do we know? And how do we know it?

Anyone tried to look for useful info on the Parks Victoria website?

Anyone had a go at finding the Castlemaine Diggings NHP management plan, for example?

Forget it. Parks website does carry a number of management plans, but not for Castlemaine Diggings. It seems that Parks Victoria’s web page is undergoing a makeover, and also that the Diggings Park’s management plan is being ‘reviewed.’ Until that process is finished, you won’t find it on the web.

The plan is a pretty indigestible document, though a careful reading of it provides some statements which should be embarrassing to Park administrators.

Check this policy, for example:

‘Minimise the impact of vehicle and track management on the park’s cultural and natural values.’ Readers of this site will know that this part of the management plan is treated with contempt. Roadside vegetation is routinely massacred by careless roadworks…

So it would be good if the Plan was more accessible, and better known…We look forward to an updated version being made available to the public.

More important than that plan, however, is the absence of practical Park information from the web. Parknotes, for example, have disappeared. These are the A4 sized sheets, often full of interesting information.

That info is now unavailable from Parkweb, however. If, for example, you wanted to find out something on the Rise and Shine reserve, this is what Parks gives you:

 

That’s it! If you want something more useful, go to Geoff Park’s Natural Newstead site, and you’ll find notes to accompany you on the walk through that reserve.

Parkweb is similarly lacking in info on other sites in the region.

Does this matter? Can’t people just work out for themselves what to see and where to go? Well, yes and no. Parks Victoria is supposed to have an educational role, and a lot of people need and want information on the places they visit.

That unavailable management plan, for example, tells us that one of the aims of the park is to enhance visitor understanding of ‘the park’s cultural and natural values’ by the implementation of an information, interpretation and education program.’

Parknotes is a cheap and very friendly way of doing this. The sooner they’re made more available to the public the better.

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Too much gold?

That persistent gold…is it gorse? Is it oxalis? Is it Cootamundra Wattle? Is it a pain? Yes to all four!

Let’s forget about Oxalis and Cootamundra, and focus on gorse  (Ulex europaeus). Introduced to Australia as a hedge plant in the 1880s, it’s now one of our worst weeds, and has few friends in this country.

Gorse: it’s estimated to cost over a million dollars annually in the central highlands through lost productivity and control costs. A mature infestation can produce up to six million seeds a hectare…and seeds can last in the soil for up to 30 years.

The Victorian Gorse Taskforce will be delivering a series of community-wide extension programs in the Sutton Grange, Ballarat and Pipers Creek areas through July 2020.

The VGT Extension Officer, Brydie Murrihy, will conduct a property assessment either alone or assisted by the landowner and will provide professional best practice management advice tailored to the property.

The landowner will receive extension material and information on any support or assistance that may be available to them, a property map detailing location of gorse plants, a detailed weed management plan and follow up phone calls and/or visits with landholders if required.

This program is a free service and the property inspections will be scheduled to suit the participants involved.

For enquires and to set-up an inspection contact: Brydie Murrihy  0428 335 705 or email bmurrihy@cva.org.au.

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Have your say on cats and dogs

Recent research, funded by the Australian government’s National Environmental Science Program, has reviewed data from more than 60 studies on domestic cats:

Domestic cats are killing an estimated 230m native Australian birds, reptiles and mammals every year, according to new research that quantifies the pet’s national toll on native animals for the first time.

Researchers said owners of Australia’s 3.7m domestic cats needed to make sure their pets were indoors or contained to reduce their impact on native species. (The Guardian)

This along with many other studies has highlighted concerns about the decimation of wildlife caused by both feral and domestic cats.

Pet cats kill 61 million birds a year in Australia, a new study estimates. (The Guardian. Photograph: SilviaJansen)

We are therefore pleased to see that the Mount Alexander Shire Council is currently undertaking a review of the control of dogs and cats in a public place. They have developed a survey to help review this process. Click here to find the survey and have your say.

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FOBIF walk in Fryers Ridge

The first FOBIF excursion since March attracted a group of 10 walkers. The forecast didn’t look good but it turned out to be good walking weather with no wind or rain. Christine Henderson who led the walk and lives in the Fryers Ridge area was able to take us off-track on kangaroo paths where the understory was wonderfully damp and full of surprises. Here the group poses amongst a mass of Hakeas.

Walkers in the ‘Hakea garden’

Other plants in flower or about to flower included the Bendigo Wax-flower, Pink-Bells, Tall Greenhoods, Common Heath and Woolly Wattles. It’s been an excellent year for fungi. This rare fungi, Cortinarius rotundisporus, looked just like a fried egg.

Cortinarius rotundisporus

Another spectacular sight was a mass of lichen that looked like strewn cauliflowers.

Cladina confusa

Some other plants and moss we came across are shown below. 

Thanks to Christine Henderson for leading this walk and sharing her in depth knowledge of the area, Frances Cincotta for help with identifying plants and Joy Clusker for help with identifying fungi and lichen.

Our next FOBIF walk is planned to take place in the Columbine Creek area led by Jeremy. See walks page for more details. We are not sure if government regulations will place restrictions on the number of people allowed in a group outside so please consult this website for updated details. We may have to get people to register with FOBIF once again if they intend coming on the walk.

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Sign of the times: be patient…

When we published the photo below five years ago, the only features in this bleak wasteland were a single golden wattle, a pile of rubbish, one patch of Gold Dust Wattle, and two small bushes of Daviesia ulicifolia, Gorse Bitter Pea. We gave the photo the caption, ‘Is this the saddest sign in the region’?

Sign near Perkins Reef, June 2015: at the time we asked, ‘is this the saddest sign in the region?’

 

The sign retains its decrepit quality, characteristic of much of the signage on public land in this region. The news for the landscape could be worse, however: we counted about 20 eucalypt seedlings (much browsed), not one but two species of pea, a few coffee bushes and much moss and lichen. Gold Dust Wattle is creeping in from the edges. The Golden Wattle is gone, and the rubbish is still there, plus a pile of what looks like eucalypt cuttings.

The same sign five years later: hanging on, hanging on. But believe it or not, that bleak ground now supports many eucalypt seedlings, together with two species of pea plants, some coffee bush, much moss and lichen…Give it a few hundred years…

OK: it’s not a paradise of biodiversity, but it’s a start. Give it a few more years…or a few hundred.

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FOBIF walks are back!

The planned FOBIF walk led by Christine Henderson will take place next Sunday 21st June in the Fryers Ridge area. It will be between 6 and 8 km.

Due to current restrictions and regulations we can only have a maximum of 20 people on the walk. We are therefore requesting that people register with FOBIF (info@fobif.org.au) by next Friday 19th June if they are planning to go on the walk. Assume you can come unless we contact you which will only happen if more that 20 people register.

We will also be practicing social distancing on the walk and not car pooling to the start of the walk.

We will meet as normal at Community House in Templeton Street, Castlemaine at 9.30am. If you would like to go directly to Taradale, be at Patersons corner which is at the junction of Old Drummond Road and High Street, Taradale behind the bus stop and opposite the servo at 9.45am. 

For more information contact Christine Henderson on 0466 004 628 or Bronwyn Silver 0448 751 111.

On the walk at this time of the year we will probably come across Hakea (left) and Common Correa in flower.

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Kalimna walk notes are online

As we’ve previously noted, the Kalimna Circuit walk originally devised by the late Ern Perkins and the Castlemaine Field Naturalists has been upgraded with new signs and wayposts. The notes for the walk have also been revised and reprinted as a colour booklet. These notes can be found in a metal box at the start of the circuit (though that box can sometimes be exhausted), and also from the Castlemaine Tourist Info centre (when it opens). They have now been put online for our convenience. You can find them at http://kalimnapark.org.au/CircuitGuide.pdf

The track upgrade and walk notes revision were initiated by the Friends of Kalimna Park and the project was completed with the assistance of FOBIF and Parks Victoria.

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Kalimna Park April management burn

The following is an excerpt from the Friends of Kalimna Park June newsletter:

‘Friends of Kalimna Park and other environmentalists had discussions with Forest Fire Management Vic (FFMV) leading up to the recent Planned Burn in the Park. Our focus was on protecting Eltham Copper Butterfly habitat and populations, and preventing the loss of substantial trees which take so long to grow here. FFMV agreed to exclude some areas where there are numerous ECB and to rake around tree bases to avoid fire getting into them.

‘There is ongoing concern from our point of view at the intrusive nature of the earth breaks created — vehicle tracks, deep soil removal on foot tracks and around trees. These are considered necessary partly for crew safety. However, we feel that smaller scale localised fuel reduction over time should be possible with the right resources.

‘We were pleased to see that FFMV has set up numerous monitoring points in the Park, with permanent markers, to study the impacts of burning. They have recorded the present flora conditions at the sites. They also did their own ECB survey using the bursaria grid map.’

In the Kalimna Park burn zone, April 2020. The fire appeared to have uneven coverage, but we are not aware of official estimates as to its effectiveness as fuel reduction or its environmental impact.

Kalimna has also been extensively surveyed by ecologists Elaine Bayes and Karl Just for Copper Butterfly populations.

The April fire appeared to achieve limited coverage. FOBIF has not had any official statement from the Department as to its effect as fuel reduction or its ecological impact.

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Walking together project update

The following is part of the latest newsletter from Harley Douglas, Dja Dja Wurrung co ordinator of the Walking Together project. All of this is worth reading, and we recommend that readers take the survey referred to at the end:

‘The Walking Together- Balak Kalik Manya Project is a four-year project committed to writing site-specific management plans for two sites within Dja Dja Wurrung Country; Kalimna Park in Castlemaine and Wildflower Drive in Bendigo. Both sites were selected due to their proximity to growing townships and the increasing pressures of urbanisation slowly encroaching both park boundaries. The project is exploring how we can increase community connection with nature, how to improve visitation rates and encourage healthy use of these sites, all while maintaining and improving biodiversity. The project will promote Djaara employment and assist in Djaara reconnecting with traditional practices of land management.

‘Since the previous newsletter, our flora and fauna assessments have now been completed with terrific results in mapping Eltham Copper Butterfly (Paralucia pyrodiscus lucida) populations and clusters of Sweet Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa) habitat within Kalimna Park. Similar surveying was completed at Wildflower Drive to detect the presence of the Eltham Copper Butterfly but sadly, there were none detected. The elusive Pink-tailed Worm-lizard’s (Aprasia parapulchella) presence was discovered at Wildflower Drive. This is an important find as our surveying information and mapping of this species, and other threatened and important species, has been provided to DELWP to inform their scheduled fuel reduction burns at the site.

‘We have also recently completed an extensive camera trapping program across both sites with Tactecol Consulting, in total 36 cameras were setup for a month to record and monitor the presence of a broad range of animals; but with a focus on arboreal marsupials such as Tuans, Sugar Gliders and Possums. Kalimna Park had promising results with Tuans but unfortunately, Wildflower Drive did not record the presence of any Tuans, Sugar Gliders or Possums. This was extremely disappointing given that the One Tree Hill area of the Greater Bendigo National Park (just a stone throw away from Wildflower Drive) is known to have healthy populations of these animals. However, this disappointing result provides an opportunity to investigate a range of management actions to help these struggling animals. Such as a rope bridge over Strathfieldsaye Road connecting the One Tree Hill block to Wildflower Drive, and this also provides an opportunity to construct and install nest boxes onsite in conjunction with school groups and local community members to help attract and provide a home for these important species at Wildflower Drive.

‘Cultural surveying will continue as more rockwells and other areas of cultural significance have been discovered and recorded within Kalimna Park, many thanks to the vigilant community members who are keeping an eye out for items of cultural significance and making us aware of the location for verifying. So far, all the items of cultural heritage I have been asked to look at have been legitimate- showing that some members within the Castlemaine community have a keen eye for Djaara culture.

‘During April this year, we were planning on beginning consultation with the community to better understand what it is the community aspire their parks to be. Given the current global circumstances with COVID-19 we have had to delay this process until we knew how to best approach the situation. We will be going ahead with community consultation, starting NOW, in the form of a short, online survey. The survey asks questions about demographics and prioritisation of specific management actions that have been suggested for the parks. This survey is just the beginning of the community consultation we are planning to do, and I am hoping that we can meet in person within the next couple of months; when COVID-19 restrictions ease. Please fill in the survey and redistribute to other interested members of the community if you feel like doing so.’

Here is the link to the survey- https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2MF7B2Z

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