Friends of Grasslands
supporting native grassy ecosystems
PO Box 987
Civic Square ACT 2608
Phone: 02 62.. ....
TAMS Centenary Trail Consultation
GPO Box 158
Canberra City ACT 2601
Canberra Centenary trail
Friends of Grasslands (FOG) is a community group dedicated to the conservation of natural temperate grassy ecosystems in south-eastern Australia. FOG advocates, educates and advises on matters to do with the conservation of grassy ecosystems, and carries out surveys and other on-ground work. FOG is based in Canberra and its more than 200 members include professional scientists, landowners, land managers and interested members of the public.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed Canberra Centenary Trail route. FOG’s main concerns in relation to this proposal is potential impacts on endangered natural temperate grasslands and box-gum grassy woodland in the reserves through which the proposed Trail will run, in particular Mulligan’s Flat Nature Reserve and Goorooyaroo Nature Park. In making the following comments, we note that, while for the most part existing tracks will be used for the Trail, in Mulligan’s Flat Nature Reserve some sections of new or upgraded track will be needed.
Impact of new tracks on endangered grassy ecosystems
FOG’s view is that there should be no development in high conservation areas, and that these areas are “no go”. While it could be argued that the size of the impact of the Trail is small, a new and wider trail will have some impact on Mulligan’s Flat Nature Reserve. As well, the construction process itself will have a larger impact, which has not considered as far as we could see. From the information provided, it appears that the new sections proposed in Mulligan’s Flat will pass through both woodland and grassy woodland area, although it is difficult to determine the quality of habitat or area affected from what is provided.
In cases of essential infrastructure, FOG may sometimes concede that the impact is necessary. However, this Trail is for recreation and thus is hardly essential. The main purpose of these two nature reserves is to protect endangered grassy ecosystems, not to provide recreation opportunities – there is plenty of degraded land in and around Canberra available for recreation purposes. For this reason, FOG considers that the Trail should, at the very least, only make use of existing trails in the Reserve.
From the maps provided, it appears as if there will also be construction of new tracks on rural leases on which high quality grassy woodland and woodland communities occur. The woodland communities on private property to the west of Mulligan’s Flat provide important connectivity linkages to the Murrumbidgee corridor and beyond, and have conservation value, even though not part of the ACT’s nature reserve system. FOG understands that, in fact, there is a proposal to include the better quality habitat in this area into a new national park. The above comments apply also to any new trails being constructed in these areas.
Another concern of FOG’s is the possibility of inadvertent spread of grassy weeds from weed infested areas into the above (and other) nature reserves. There are areas, particularly in the south of Canberra, where there are significant grassy weeds (such as African love grass, serrated tussock and Chilean needle grass) alongside walking tracks and fire trails, e.g. along trails between Urambi Hills and McQuoids Hill. While one of the main ways these have been spread in the past is by mowing, inadvertent transfer by walkers (and their dogs) and cyclists brushing past plants and carrying the seed further along the trail also occurs. Increased use of the tracks through Mulligan’s Flat Nature Reserve and Goorooyaroo Nature Park is likely, over the long term, to increase the spread of weeds through these areas.
Misuse of the Trail
There is already a problem of inappropriate use by trail bikes in other nature reserves and open spaces around Canberra. FOG believes that broadening the trail through these nature reserves opens up the potential for trail bikes to make more use of nature reserves such as Mulligan’s Flat. Since trail bike riders do not always stay on formed tracks, there is potential for damage to the endangered grassy ecosystems in these northern reserves. Prevention of such misuse is very difficult and, at the moment, appears to have no resources allocated to it in other parts of Canberra’s open spaces. Assuming this continues to be the case, broadening the trail within these reserves will, FOG believes, increase urban impact on our reserves.
Maintenance of the Trail
In reading the section on trail maintenance in the feasibility report, FOG notes that the management costs include marketing and promotion, community engagement and insurance, but make no mention of actual trail maintenance or management of any undesirable impacts of the trail on the reserves it passes through. At the very least, there needs to be some resources set aside for management of weeds along the Trail. Relying on Government weeds teams or community groups such as Parkcare to manage any increased spread of weeds due to the Trail is inappropriate since both Government weeds budgets and volunteer groups are already stretched to the limit managing other problems.
The feasibility report focuses on tourism and makes no mention of the environmental impacts of the trail. While acknowledging the intent of the Trail (to showcase Canberra and some of its hidden treasures) FOG is concerned that the impact of the Trail will be to degrade some of those treasures. At the very least, the Trail should be confined to existing tracks through high conservation value nature reserves. Consideration also needs to be given to potential long term impacts of the Trail on our endangered grassy ecosystems.
John Fitz Gerald
21 November 2011