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Category: Open space and recreation areas

national, state and local parks; state forests; rivers and reservoirs; coastal waters and beaches; public parks and gardens; community gardens; botanic gardens; arboreta

Glen Rock Master Plan

When staff of the Land Planning Branch of the Department of Lands, managers of the Regional Open Space System from its commencement in 1994, recommended that the Glen Rock property in the Gatton hinterland be purchased for public purposes, the intended purpose was as a demonstration cattle property. Given its proximity to the metropolis, the range of vegetation types from Creek Flats to mountaintops and the sensitivity of the land to soil erosion, it was considered that it would make an excellent facility to showcase landcare principles and practice. This was consistent with development as a regional park. Continue Reading

Review Status: Pending

Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre: Wilderness pedagogy

Karawatha means the ‘place of pine trees’ in Yugambeh, the local Aboriginal language. This precious area traverses Brisbane City Council and Logan City Council, eighteen kilometres south of the Brisbane city centre. This is an important National Estate area: historically for Indigenous peoples; ecologically for endemic and IUCN red-listed species; technically for early settlers with mining and water storage; socially for family recreation and tourist sightseeing; environmentally as a nature refuge with diverse ecosystems and also as a wetlands habitat for Brisbane ‘living lungs’ carbon sequestration; and economically as a community investment for future generations to learn about wilderness.

Karawatha was an integral part of the Flinders-Greenbank-Karawatha (FGK) green belt for South-east Queensland stretching from historic Redlands through Brisbane, Logan, Beaudesert and Ipswich municipalities to Flinders Peak. Over thirty years, the community was instrumental in the donation, bequest and buy-back of 1000 hectares of land from diverse stakeholders in order to keep the Karawatha Forest corridor intact. High-value biologically-diverse habitats include many of those twenty-five identified ecosystems registered for South-east Queensland (NRM, 2006). The wetlands of the Logan Shire contrast sharply against the dry landscapes and rocky pinnacle overlooking five surrounding townships. For an intricate map, click here (soon – not yet active).

This narrative focuses on the evolution, design, development and management of the Discovery Centre, respecting original Council by-laws, but subsequently evolving into much more: a purpose-built facility for community and environmental education focused on the interaction of children with the natural realm. This was a major step forward for innovative experiential learning. The Karawatha Forest Protection Society was pivotal to the process.

 

Understanding community attitudes

The multicultural population in the local towns shared their perspective of the Australian bush as a ‘dangerous place’ with spiders in every tree, snakes everywhere, ‘drop bears’, nasty amoeba in every waterhole, biting insects, sunburn leading to skin cancer and predatory raptors swooping their children from the sky. Several members of the Karawatha Forest Protection Society (KFPS) conducted multicultural sessions for appreciation of the bush, firstly in local libraries and then in the forest itself. On KFPS community picnic days, wildlife rangers and television personalities allowed fearful families to understand more, as children embraced lizards and felt furry animals, while parents and grandparents were petrified. In some cases, those Asian families had lived generations in concrete jungles with no exposure to the natural benefits of wilderness. To see attitudes change from fear to a healthy appreciation was significant and reassuring. This strongly influenced the principles for designing the ‘Eco-centre’ project.

The KFPS surveyed 107 users of the forest at the Acacia Road entrance, the local school principal and the church elders who were riparian land owners. Responses were collated on a matrix of desirable design features by staged development timeframes of two years, five years, ten years, 30 years and 100 years. The intent was a design for sustainable public place-making.

The design brief

Every fortnight for many months, representatives met with KFPS and Council departments to refine desirable outcomes, operating expectations, environmental impacts, community involvement and funding. The staff became enthusiastic project leaders. The design brief was for future generations:

  • interacting with the natural systems within the forest;
  • conquering ‘nature deficit disorder’;
  • demonstrating nature play and exercise programs for all ages and abilities;
  • understanding ancient Indigenous stewardship and spirituality of the place;
  • incorporating scientific studies with new technology for day and night eco-auditing for many international stakeholders interested in rare and endemic species;
  • providing dedicated space for onsite education and training and community meetings;
  • undertaking cultural awareness sessions with some historical recognition;
  • incorporating low-environmental-impact free facilities (drinking water, toilets, buildings, family picnic areas, playgrounds, educational walks, GPS-assisted wayfinding with language translations, signage, and broader community spaces);
  • integrating with the natural environment with minimal disruptive footprint; and
  • facilitating safe use of the forest (minimising night crimes and unauthorised fires, mitigating fire risk to new townhouse development adjacent to the school and managing traffic safely).

7-senses approach to play

This also capitalised on the project where attention-deficit children would undertake a supervised six-week-programme with nature immersion (Tooth & Renshaw, 2017), which continuously resulted high success rates for permanent improvement in children’s behaviour. This further exemplified the values of the Last Child in the Woods (Louv, 2005) with the movement to address nature-deficit-disorder emerging from people having no connection to natural landscapes, as globally urbanisation affected half the world’s population. Teachers, PhD students, Queensland Environmental Educators’ school champions, outdoor education practitioners and parents were keen to see the latest thinking put into practice.

The ‘Nature Play’ playgrounds were not a favourite for public risk assessors at the time. However there were global innovations with successful case studies to support inclusion. Furthermore, providing for physically and intellectually impaired children, and for the ageing and disabled people generally, became a priority. This emerged as Queensland Parliament signed the United Nations Declaration for Rights of the Disabled Persons applying to all designs for public spaces. This resulted in achievement of the 7-senses approach to play (Volbert). Senses include sight, smell, touch, sound, taste and two extra for children on the autism spectrum – vestibular (for gravity, balance and movement) and proprioception (for deep-sense coordination and muscle interaction). So, the plan embraced indoor and outdoor learning techniques.

The outcome

The Discovery Centre (aka Eco-centre) comprises a low-maintenance building planned for a century asset-life, designed to integrate into the forest and community space in the recreational parklands. The building itself houses drink fountains, an artist-in-resident space, training room with community meeting space, sanitation, maintenance shed, ranger’s office with tourism reception area and most importantly the multi-purpose space for community engagement and interactive learning for school children.

Upon entry, many languages welcome the visitor and then hologram frogs on waterlilies with babbling water bring the space to life. A video scans the space. The interactive parts deserve further explanation.

By air: A drone acts as a wedge-tail eagle complete with wing flapping and windy sound effects as we lie on a padded bench to assume the role of the raptor surveying all that lies below on the 1000 hectares, across the Compton Road overpass (designed to prevent animal deaths on the busy freight road), the glider ladders straddling the transport canyon, the hidden underpass where reptiles slither in the drain while amphibians hop and clamber across ledge ‘furniture’, the reservoir, the waterhole, the quarry scars, the rocky lookout, the buzzing wetland swamps with diverse foliage and birdlife, the old cemetery and surrounding townships. But most striking is the raw bush, sometimes dry, rocky and harsh, sometimes wet and abundant.

By day and night: For a day in the life of the forest, a room with padded seats quickly introduces us to the local species with the sounds, sights and movements complete with cicada heralding the heat before a lightning storm and peaceful dawning glory. The fast-motion immersion makes senses react.

By curiosity: Small boxes beckon children to feel things inside to identify as they learn in this safe environment. Play School-style windows and panels open to the stories of native bees, furry animals, pine cones and fires, flowers and 25 types of frogs.

By play: a seated school and play area is available for parents and teachers, where walls are lined with maps and illustrations and museum style cabinets house live animals for children to find and touch. This is a supervised zone.

For adults there are many more things to see and do in Karawatha (peripatetic andragogy) but this story is limited to designing for children’s nature-based education. Outdoor programs are covered comprehensively elsewhere on the Karawatha website.

 

Logos of Karawatha Forest Protection Society

 

Vincent Watego, graphic artist, nature-lover and photographer, created this painting of the Green-thighed Frog, Litoria brevipalmata.

IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) red listed species.

Marilyn Murphy’s line-drawing was the winning entry in an art competition held in ~1990. KFPS have proudly used this logo since incorporation.  The logo depicts the gumnuts & leaves of Eucalyptus planchoniana, a.k.a. Planchon’s Stringybark, Needlebark Stringybark or Bastard Tallowwood: Koala feed trees for food and perhaps shelter (sleep trees).

 

This story honours the three women – Bernice Volz, Trish McHugh, and Polly Cutcliffe – who cared enough to establish the Karawatha Forest Protection Society, 31 years ago, to include stewardship of Karawatha Forest, Illaweena Wetlands and the Kuraby Nature Refuge and bushlands (Roberts, 2021).

 

References

Brisbane City Council. Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre. Video https://youtu.be/FG207_pP2QA

Louv, R. 2005. The Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Algonquin Books.

Maynard, S., James, D. & Davidson, A. 2010. ‘The Development of an Ecosystem Services Framework for South East Queensland‘. Environmental Management 45, 881-895.

NRM. 2006. Natural Resource Management of South East Queensland – Mapping Ecosystems Services.

Roberts, Beryl. 2021. Unpublished works on the History of Karawatha,

Tooth, R. & Renshaw, P. 2017. ‘Pedagogy as advocacy in and for place’. Chapter 10 in Diverse Pedagogies of Place. Routledge.

Volbert, T. The 7 Senses Foundation and colleagues.

Review Status: Pending

Sherbrooke Forest – National icon, urban forest and sanctuary – A case study in bush regeneration

Sherbrooke Forest is an area of 802 hectares and contains three vegetation types; Wet Forest, Damp Forest and Cool Temperate Rainforest. It is surrounded by residential properties, except for part of the eastern edge which borders on farmland.

 

 

It contains the stand of Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) nearest to the city of Melbourne, and is a popular tourist destination. One of its greatest attractions is the Superb Lyrebird which are easily heard and observed along the main walking tracks.

Sherbrooke Forest became part of the newly formed Dandenong Ranges National Park in 1987. It was formerly managed by the Forests Commission as a State forest – until 1983. Since 1996, Parks Victoria has managed Sherbrooke Forest as part of the National Park under the auspices of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. A volunteer group, the Friends of Sherbrooke Forest, was formed in 1980 and remains an active group forty-one years later.

Fire, pines and their aftermath

There has not been a major wildfire in the forest since February 1923, when seventy-two percent of the forest was burnt. A small area on the eastern side was burnt in the 1926 wildfire. There was also a fire on Coles Ridge in 1946, which resulted in establishment of a plantation of Monterey Pines (Pinus radiata) by local schools. There was no attempt to regenerate the Mountain Ash. Other areas planted with pines were the O’Donohue Memorial Plantation, the Melbourne High School Plantation and the Sherbrooke Plantation on Ridge Track which was clear-felled in 1977 and replanted with Mountain Ash that year.

The authorities did not act to remove English Ivy in the area of the Sherbrooke Plantation from 1977 and as a result of the disturbance, English Ivy was able to establish and completely overwhelm the lower storey native vegetation, as well as climbing to great heights up the Mountain Ash. The Mountain Ash were only about ten years old when the Friends started removing English Ivy there by hand. This also occurred in other areas where timber was removed from the forest from 1904 until 1927.

In 1985, the Schools Plantation on Coles Ridge Track was removed over three years. Before any felling commenced the English Ivy vines were cut from the trees and the ground ivy was treated with herbicide. This approach was continued when the two remaining pine plantations were removed over the next two years. The slash was burnt and the areas were hand sown with Mountain Ash seed collected from trees within the forest. Thousands of pine seedlings that germinated were hand weeded by the Friends group over the next few years. The photos linked here tell the story.

The same process was used when the two remaining pine plantations were clear-felled, although the Melbourne High School Plantation required supplementary planting due to its shaded location.

Weed control

The Friends group successfully hand-weeded English Ivy from the areas where the pines were removed in the 1970s, as well as an area on the eastern side of the forest where timber was removed from 1904 to 1927. The latter area also needed herbicide control as the soil was mainly clay, making hand-weeding almost impossible, as opposed to the rich mountain loam on the western side of the forest.

Both the areas of forest where English Ivy was the dominant ground cover were not used by lyrebirds, as the dense foliage made contact with the soil impossible. Once the ivy was removed the lyrebirds returned and display mounds were discovered almost immediately. The lyrebirds even used the piles of dead ivy as a source of invertebrates for food, as well as nest construction. The area of ‘dead’ forest was brought to life.

The Friends group commenced a systematic survey of the forest’s vegetation in 1984 to determine areas of environmental weeds within the forest. Unfortunately, the result of this survey revealed that the forest was in a deplorable state. The main weeds found were English Ivy (Hedera helix), Sweet Pittosporum (Pittosporum undulatum), English Holly (Ilex aquifolium), Red Cestrum (Cestrum elegans) and Sycamore Maple (Acer pseudoplatanus). All of these species were introduced to the Dandenongs via plant nurseries in the early 1900s. The first four species produce a berry-fruit which is eaten by birds. Sycamore Maple has a winged-seed that can be carried many miles into the forest. No weed control except for Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus), Angled Onion (Allium triquetrum) and Red Cestrum (Cestrum elegans) had been carried out in the forest for at least forty years.

While environmental weeds such Sweet Pittosporum and English Holly were not recognised as a threat to the indigenous vegetation, the increasing abundance of English Ivy was taking over valuable lyrebird feeding areas. By the time the Friends started work this plant had covered many hectares of ground on both sides of the forest.

Over the next thirty years the Friends systematically poisoned these woody weeds using the drill and fill method. The herbicide used was full-strength glyphosate. Smaller plants of Red Cestrum were removed using a mattock, although some bushes were so large that they were poisoned. The group now carries out follow-up weeding throughout the forest.

Future prospects for weed control

A forest surrounded by residential properties in which environmental weeds are grown will forever have the problem of seeding by birds. Although the local council provides information with regard to these weeds, many residents resist removing them from their gardens.

From survey maps it is possible to see the correlation of weed invasion with proximity to residential gardens. See maps of Sycamore Maple and Cestrum; and of Sweet Pittosporum and English Holly. These weed distribution survey maps are from 1984 (when the survey commenced) to 2001 (when it finished). The group surveyed every second Sunday of every second month over this time. (It always prioritised weed control). Maps also show the abundance of English Ivy in areas disturbed by the planting of Monterey Pine and timber felling: see maps linked here.

Lyrebirds

In 1983, lyrebird numbers were dramatically reduced when eleven birds were killed within a few months. Predation by foxes, wandering domestic dogs and cats were thought to be the cause. Although there was a general outcry by the public, it was not until 1988 that the local council and the then Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands set up a working group to give advice on ways to halt this decline.

Recommendations by the Advisory Committee included registration of cats, a dusk to dawn curfew for cats, and the limiting of two cats and two dogs per property. Altogether, five drafts were submitted to the Council over four years. In June 1991, the Animal Welfare Local Law was finally passed. Although controversial at the time, the law was accepted by most residents. Parks Victoria also instigated a program to poison foxes. Since then, the lyrebird population has stabilised and wallaby numbers in the forest have increased. The Sherbrooke Lyrebird Survey Group monitors lyrebirds throughout the year, as well as holding three dawn surveys during June and July. Young lyrebird chicks are banded while in the nest, so the group can track where they move as adult birds.

The Friends of Sherbrooke Forest and management authorities

This group was formed under the Forests Commission of Victoria in 1980. Work parties were held once a month in areas suggested by the Ranger-in-charge. The group quickly developed a good working relationship with the staff. Once trust had developed on both sides, the group was given permission to work in areas that had been discovered during the Friends vegetation surveys. A ranger always put in an appearance at these work parties and worked alongside the group.

When the Forests Commission of Victoria was dissolved in 1983, the Forester-in Charge at Kallista remained in his position, retiring in 1985. The superseding agency was the Department of Conservation Forests and Lands. The Friends continued to have a good relationship with the new staff. One constant throughout the Friends volunteer work in the forest was the continued presence of the Head Ranger. This individual had started work with the Forests Commission when he was fifteen years old. His final position was Head Ranger of the Dandenong Ranges National Park, until he retired at fifty-five years of age. He now is a regular volunteer with the Friends.

Sambar Deer

In 1996, a member of the Sherbrooke Lyrebird Survey Group came face to face with a large Sambar Deer. This was the first actual sighting, though some Friends had wondered what was browsing the lower branches of English Holly in the eastern side of the forest. As their numbers increased, the damage they caused to the native vegetation became more evident. The impacts of deer include long term changes to vegetation and plant communities, such as:

(a)       Browsing of ground ferns along creek corridors causing:

  • compaction of soil on frequently used tracks
  • erosion along creek banks
  • silting and sedimentation in creeks.

(b)       Pruning of lower understorey shrubs such as the native Coprosma quadrifida almost to the ground by deer, resulting in an unnaturally open forest. This means that lyrebirds are more exposed to predators such as foxes and feral cats.

(c)       Trampling of indigenous vegetation resulting in poor regeneration of native species.

(d)       Fouling of water in creeks by deer faeces, possibly introducing viruses that deer are known to carry and creating bogs where they wallow.

(e)       Competing with wallabies and wombats for food.

(f)       Antler rubbing on Sassafras trees resulting in ring-barking and eventual death of the tree.

(g) Destruction of valuable species of vegetation. The Cool Temperate Rainforest Community within the forest is being threatened. Deer tend to follow creeks throughout the forest. Therefore, any damage to creek vegetation will inevitably see the disappearance of this plant community, already threatened in Victoria. Deer browse the fronds of tree-ferns within their reach continually, resulting in their demise.

In 2014, Parks Victoria commenced a deer control program, but used only volunteer shooters from the Sporting Shooters’ Association. After four years it was decided to cease this program as the number of deer being shot in the last year was zero. The Friends have maintained that for the program to be a success it would be necessary to contract professional deer shooters, and close the Park for a period of time until numbers had been reduced.

Conclusion

Although Sherbrooke Forest is a relatively ‘young’ forest as a result of the 1923 wildfire, the threats posed by environmental weeds escaping from residential gardens will be a continuing problem.

A severe storm on 9 June 2021 blew over many mature Mountain Ash and Blackwood trees (Acacia melanoxylon), thus opening up the forest to more light and threatening the Sassafras trees (Atherosperma moschatum) in the Sherbrooke Creek gully. Many of the mature eucalypts would have been home for both possum and owl species.

If deer numbers are not controlled the structure of the forest will inevitably be changed, resulting in the loss of both indigenous flora and fauna.

The State Government must increase funding to improve the natural values of the forest. At present, funding has not been available to replace bridges destroyed by falling trees. Staff numbers are kept to a minimum, resulting on poor compliance of the public, who regularly walk their dogs along the forest tracks. The recent storm will cost thousands to clean up regular walking tracks, let alone to restore the damaged areas.

Like so many volunteer groups, the Friends of Sherbrooke Forest are an ageing group with the majority of active members being in their late seventies. Who will watch over this beautiful forest once they are unable to volunteer?

Further reading

The Friends of Sherbrooke Forest. 2000 & 2008. Sherbrooke Forest – its flora and history.

 

Review Status: Pending

Mt Neurum – Mt Archer, SEQ

Mt Neurum

After the launch of the Regional Open Space System (ROSS) in South East Queensland in mid-1994, the ROSS office based in the Department of Lands had some $4 million per annum (budgeted for five years) to spend on land purchase. A private allotment covering much of Mount Neurum, a prominent outcrop at the end of the D’Aguilar Range overlooking Woodford, came on the market. Staff assessed it as being of high value for regional open space, because of its prominence in the landscape and because a subdivision design for some 20 allotments high on the rise, each necessitating a long steep driveway, was in existence.

The property was purchased by the State and eventually Caboolture Shire Council took management.

Mt Archer

A privately-owned, dog-friendly recreation park was established on private freehold land near to Mt Neurum, abutting Neurum Creek. More details on this innovative facility to come.

Review Status: Pending

Open Space Planning in SEQ – 1994-2012

More than 25 years after the creation of a regional open space network was recommended in the SEQ2001 Regional Plan, South East Queensland does not have a regional park system or any coordinated network of recreational open space worth the name. The narrative of what-might-have-been is a story of opportunities lost, at least three times over. Continue Reading

Review Status: Pending