Environmental Work in a Time of Pandemic
This year, Covid-19 restrictions have severely impacted on what volunteer groups can do (particularly, in relation to physically working together in working bees and carrying out the sorts of tasks that Cliffcare has typically done in collaboration with land managers). Given the difficulties of ensuring employee and volunteer safety in the light of state-wide restrictions, Parks Victoria has had to put a halt to such collaborative work for the preceding six months and this hiatus continues.
Nonetheless, Cliffcare has still managed to oversee the completion of the major work on the Central Gully track (Dyurrait / Mt Arapiles) – part repair and part realignment of the track - from the top down to below the Mari area. We were able to source stone and have it delivered to the bottom of the track and have volunteers begin the task of lugging this to points along the track where it needed before the restrictions came into force. Walter Braun, our stone-mason extraordinaire, has done a great job as usual, supported of course by the volunteers who were able to help – thanks in particular to Cameron Abraham, Geoff Gledhill, Claire Grubb and Steve Monks for their ongoing assistance to Walter to keep this project rolling.
Walter has a preference to realign rather than repair the bottom section of the track but this will be contingent on a cultural heritage assessment of the proposed new alignment.
After approaching Parks Victoria early in the year about some maintenance work that the VCC saw as being required at a number of cliffs in the Grampians, we organised a ‘walk around’ at The Watchtower, near Halls Gap, with some Parks Victoria staff, including Head Ranger, Rhonda McNeil. PV were receptive to collaborating with Cliffcare to do repair work on the track and ‘staging areas’ along the base of the crag. Subsequently, Covid-19 has put plans on hold but all parties are hopeful that this project will be able to be developed, post-pandemic.
On a related front, we have been supportive of the notion of a volunteer-based organisation such as the nascent Crag Stewards Victoria, utilising the knowledge and passion of local area cliff stewards and covering all of Victoria, working with land managers to help preserve the environments of the places where we love to climb or boulder.
Cliffcare has traditionally done this, though there has been a significant associated financial impost to fund an Access and Environment Officer and, because so much has fallen on the shoulders of that one person, it has made it difficult to sustain a truly state-wide (rather than Grampians/Arapiles) focus. So we have watched with significant interest to see whether the CSV model could work. Again, Covid-19 has severely hampered the sorts of collaborative projects that land managers such as Parks Victoria are able to do with organisations such as Cliffcare and CSV but the signs are promising – we will continue to monitor and keep an open mind when considering how Cliffcare and CSV can best work together in the future.
Board member, Cliffcare