Another year of challenges and opportunities has kept Parklands Rangers on our toes this year.
The continuing pandemic meant that staff were restricted and volunteer stewards had few opportunities to actually get out and work on park restoration, while at the same time the amazing seasons gave the weeds and grasses a real boost, creating more need than hands on deck at times.
In the latter part of the year, access to some of our parks became difficult as wild weather brought down trees and seasonal flooding closed maintenance tracks. All part of the changing climate!
On the bright side, we were able to complete several interpretive signage projects combining vibrant artwork by local First Nations artists with nature photos, nature notes and local history stories. These have been installed along the tracks in the regional parks, along with wayfinding signs to make navigating the walking trails easier and safer.
We also had terrific response to our community surveys, with hundreds of local people providing rich feedback to help direct our future plans.
Through partnerships and collaboration with community, business and government stakeholders Parklands were able to secure significant investment for projects on the Murray River, McFarlanes Hill, Baranduda and the Upper Murray on the High Country Rail Trail.
Despite restrictions our Rangers achieved an enormous amount on the ground, installing and monitoring nest-boxes for endangered wildlife, maintaining 223km of nature trails, installing 9km of stock exclusion fencing to create connected nature corridors, treating weeds across the regional parks, planting 11,500 native seedlings and working alongside volunteers to improve the parks.
A Working for Victoria team, shared with regional partners, lent a hand with these tasks. We were also able to share a small Recovery Team with the Upper Murray Landcare Network, with three young staff employed for the next year to deliver on our 2031 Strategic Plan. Meanwhile, volunteer stewardship sessions in the Albury bush parks were adapted to enable volunteers to be much more independent.
Many of our community activities morphed to online engagement. Our planned hands-on activities for young people became a series of short videos on young ‘Bush Park Explorers’, and our usual ‘Walk and Talks’ became Zoom Q&A sessions with Ranger Dan in our ‘Bush Park Getabout’ series. We worked with virtual volunteers to enable them to create interactive digital maps of local walks, and published these to the Victoria Walks website.
Throughout the year, it wasn’t just the plants growing apace. Patronage of our regional park nature trails doubled over the past 18 months, demonstrating just how important connecting with nature is for our physical and mental health and wellbeing, particularly during times of crisis.
A big thanks to our skilled and resourceful staff, contractors and volunteers, who have all worked so hard to ‘pivot’ around the pandemic and find new ways to do what we do. Equally large thanks to our dedicated Board members, who also overcame pandemic related hurdles to craft a new 10 year Strategic Plan this year. Thanks to our community for your feedback, involvement, and for caring so passionately about the future of our beautiful natural areas. We are grateful also for the support of local businesses, philanthropic organisations and government partners. Your support continues to enable us to create connectivity, improve biodiversity and provide quality bush parks and trails to connect community.
Please read more in our Annual Report for 2021, available here.