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Comment on the Draft Budawangs Walking and Camping Strategy
Comment on the Draft Budawangs Walking and Camping Strategy
The NPA recently provided comments as follows:
The National Parks Association of the Australian Capital Territory Inc. is pleased, as a regular user of both the Morton National Park and Budawang National Park, to be given the opportunity to comment on the Draft Budawangs Walking and Camping Strategy.
The NPA of the ACT agrees that the detrimental impact of current levels and patterns of use require the development of a strategy to ensure sustainable use of this valuable resource. While we believe that the overall theme of the draft strategy: that of acceptance of popular established walking routes and camp sites and managing their use to minimise environmental damage, while aiming to minimize disturbance and maximize wilderness experience in the remainder of the Budawangs: is a desirable goal, we believe that it will be necessary in some areas to be more proactive in the measures considered.
Entrances and Access
On the whole, the range of entrances to the park is good and aids the dispersion of foot traffic. Given the level of use, it is essential that these entrances are sufficiently hardened to cope with the level of use even at the potential risk of encouraging more use.
There is however a need to re-establish trail linkage at the Endrick entrance. The strategy makes passing comment to this significant loss of access in stating that “the wishes of the private property owners at the Endrick entrance will be respected”. The unfortunate closure of the access to Round Mountain, Salley Creek and the Red Grounds fire trail entrances to the park is of significant concern. Access to the Round Mountain and Salley Creek entrances is understandable, to some extent, given the long traverse through private property and the availability of a nearby route along the Red Grounds fire trail.
However with access to the crossing of the Endrick River to the Red Grounds fire trail also effectively blocked, significant access to a major portion of the park has been lost. While it is understandable, from an environmental perspective, that it is not desirable to create a track along the right of way as it passes through the swamp, every effort should be made to a negotiate a solution that will provide access to the Red Grounds fire trail, rather than the vague suggestion of seeking permission from the owners to cross their property. Such efforts have been successful in other national parks and may require the construction of stiles and signage asking walkers to stay on track and not enter private property.
The strategy makes mention of the use of the Alum fire trail as access to the park from the Endrick entrance. However, the Alum firetrail parallels the western edge of the park and does not provide an alternative to the closed routes. Encouraging walkers to create their own tracks from the Alum fire trail to the Round Mountain area would appear to be contrary to the rest of the proposed strategy that aims at preventing the proliferation of tracks and the walking-in of class 6 tracks. If this entry is to continue, then it would be more sensible for the NPWS to develop an access route.
As an aside, the map in the strategy appears to indicate that the park does not commence for several km along the Alum fire trail from the current Endrick entrance parking area is this correct? It does not accord with the Endrick Topographic map (8927-4-S).
An alternative would be to create a new entrance from the land owned by the NPWS at about map ref. 319017, Endrick. This entrance would go directly to the Alum firetrail and allow entry to a large area of the Park. It would be necessary to arrange access from the property owners behind this outrider area of the park.
With the negotiated access to the Red Grounds firetrail and the new entrance, there would be added dispersal of walkers entering the park.
Maintenance and Marking of Walking Tracks
The proposed strategy of no new tracks is supported provided some form of access towards the Vines and/or Round Mt is re-established from the Endrick entrance. Track maintenance to address environmental damage is necessary in a number of areas and this, as indicated in the strategy, should be the focus of works. Recognition that walkers will create a trail from the Alum fire trail to Round Mountain appears at odds with the other recommendations in this section.
Group Size and Walker Registration
The proposed strategy is supported, however, it is recognized that this could cause difficulties for some groups.
Peak Time Permit System
The proposed permit system is a good idea but will be hard to implement given the lack of a permanent ranger presence at the park and the distance from Sydney or Canberra. The two or more hour drive from Sydney or Canberra makes it difficult for parties to retreat if people arrive and find numbers have been reached or that a permit was needed for that weekend. A substantial and wide advertising campaign would be needed and information available on site so groups can be redirected to close alternative walks and/or camping areas. The dispersion of numbers in different areas is an important issue. There would be considerable damage caused by 250 people using one entrance and this would be avoided if this number was spread across all entrances. See above for need to add additional entrances.
The proposed tent camping restrictions appear to be no different to existing arrangements. Clear identification of both the no camping areas and the listed camp sites would assist in minimizing damage to fragile areas. Camping platforms of careful design and good placement are worth further consideration particularly at the more sensitive, popular campsites deep within the park.
The proposed designated camping caves provide a wide range of options for those so inclined to use these caves. The banning of fires in caves and overhangs is an important requirement in many of these locations
The move towards the use of fuel stoves is necessary in a number of areas due to high usage and the damage being caused in those areas. However, there are areas within the park that fallen wood is relatively plentiful away from camping areas and camping caves. It is unlikely that any overall ban on lighting fires would be successful. We note that this is not proposed in the draft strategy.
There are a number of areas that are very heavily used and are likely to need substantial efforts to provide facilities and harden the site to minimize ongoing environmental damage. The Long Flat camping area is one example as this site the entrance to the Castle and Monolith Valley areas, is very heavily used and appears to be particularly popular with inexperienced campers and larger groups. This site has at times been in need of additional facilities and educational information, as the lack of good training among some walkers has lead to significant health risks in the immediate area and along the tracks leading to the Castle and Monolith Valley.
The placement of low impact toilets at the popular camping sites deep within the park is seen as an unfortunate but necessary addition to help minimize environmental damage that is being caused in these areas. The level of usage, thin soils and high rainfall of some of the proposed “improved” camp sites suggest that it will necessary to think beyond the provision of simple pit toilets. Composting toilets are now a more economically feasible alternative than they have been in the past and are probably worth further consideration.
Former Military Training Area
The proposed policy appears sound.
The proposed information and signage will be of significant value to some walkers and will be necessary for the protection of the environment within the park.
Maps and Publications
The proposed information to be recommended for inclusion and exclusion appears to be a reasonable compromise for new maps and publications. Although the cooperation and support of the several other groups providing information (including camping) besides the Land Information Centre needs to be considered particularly as the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service is not the major source of information on the area at this time.
Other information Provision
This is going to be particularly necessary for the permit system to be effective. Information regarding the numbers of permits issued would be invaluable even if not directly available on-line.
The lack of a permanent ranger presence at the park makes it essential that contact information is available and that regular monitoring is carried out.
While the control of motor cycle use in the park is not strictly a concern of this walking and camping strategy the not insignificant use of the western fire trails in the Budawangs by off road motor cycles traveling at speed is certainly of concern to walkers. In most circumstances walkers hear these vehicles coming in time to be out of the way. However it is likely that at some point in the future a collision will occur with possible significant injury or even loss of life.
National Parks Association of the ACT Inc.
PO Box 1940
Woden ACT 2606