Friends of Grasslands

supporting native grassy ecosystems

PO Box 440
Jamison Centre
Macquarie ACT 2614

email: advocacy@fog.org.au
web: www.fog.org.au

EPSDD
Attn. Anthony Davis
email: Anthony.Davis@act.gov.au

 

Dear Anthony

Franklin Grasslands landscape plan

Friends of Grasslands (FOG) views Franklin Grasslands as an important opportunity for the community to experience nature and to learn about local cultural and natural values, including its management for many thousands of years by First Nations People and its grasslands, woodlands, wetland areas and related fauna. Franklin Grasslands provide opportunities to people of all ages for recreation, learning, caring and participation in its management.

FOG has reviewed the proposed landscape plan for the Franklin Grassland. As part of this review we held a forum at which Suzanne Orr and members of the Ginninderra Catchment Group, Ginninderra Community Council, Franklin Grassland Landcare Group and FOG participated.

In general FOG supports the proposed landscape plan for the Franklin Grasslands. In particular we are supportive of all of the features designed to protect the areas with high conservation value while still providing an opportunity for the community to learn more about these endangered ecosystems.

However, FOG considers that some aspects of the plan need more work before it is implemented. For example, there could be more information provided about the reserve’s natural and cultural values. An informal gathering space in the woodland area would allow more opportunities for educational activities to occur. The drainage line needs more work, especially more attention to landscaping and particular issues such as dealing with an erosion and rubbish problem. FOG recommends that a western gravel path be included along the western mown strip to join the northern and southern ends of the reserve. All plantings must be in line with the conservation values of the reserve.

The attachment discusses these and other suggestions to improve the plan in more detail.

We are happy to discuss these comments in more detail and would appreciate being consulted on the revised plan if possible.

Yours sincerely

 

Geoff Robertson
President

24 September 2020


Attachment: detailed comments on the Franklin Grasslands management plan

One general concern is the lack of costing information, both of installing various parts of the infrastructure (and the cost of alternatives), and of ongoing cost to maintain the infrastructure, weed the gardens, etc. Without this information and knowing who would be responsible for the various components, it was a little difficult to make a truly informed comment on the available options.

Fencing, entrances, access & car parks

Pedestrian entrances and external gates

Entrances at No. 1, No. 2 (west and north), No. 9 and No. 29 are supported. Pages 24-26 provide images of what entrance to No. 1 would look like. Some indication of what the entrances, at No. 2, No. 29, No. 9 and elsewhere, would look like would be helpful. 

No mention is made of the third access point on the south-west side of the reserve, which should be kept, especially if No. 17 is closed.

There should be a pedestrian access point at the existing locked gate entrance to parking area No. 26.

FOG supports removing the gate on Flemington Rd (No. 17) and substituting No 6 gate at the eastern side of reserve (No. 6), and retention of a gate on the south-western corner at the entrance to carpark No. 26. The retention of gate (No. 24) seems pointless – from what we can see, access from Flemington Road at this point seems almost impossible. Can this be reviewed?

Franklin Grasslands Parkcare Group access

The Franklin Grasslands Parkcare Group has now held about twelve weeding work parties. (In the past, three clean up days have been held at the reserve.) When the Parkcare Group holds work parties, members have parked on the nature strip on Flemington Road and climbed over the gate (No. 24). Suitable (possibly locked) access points for park carers need consideration.

Fences

The entrance fence on Fleming Road (on either side of No. 1) and habitat protection fence on corner Flemington Rd and Wells Station Drive (No. 24) are supported, as are moving the fence to north of the Ephemeral Wetland from No. 20 (north) to No. 8, and removing the fence in south-eastern corner (No. 20 south).

It is not made clear what the remaining external fencing will look like – perhaps the plan should clarify this.

Consideration should be given to adjusting the fence in the south-eastern corner to capture the area of high quality natural temperate grassland (likely golden sun moth habitat) currently outside the fence.

Car parks

The car park at No 5 is supported. Free car parking with a limit of three hours would be desirable.

A carpark at No. 25 is supported. The current car parking in this location is accessed by a locked gate. Would this continue or will the carpark at No 25 be accessible normally?

FOG envisages occasions where larger groups might visit the Grassland. Examples include open days, workshops for research and educational purposes, and visits by school groups. At such times overflow parking would be needed that could cater for a bus as well as cars. The plan should make allowance for this, including whether overflow parking could occur in the vicinity of No 29 and behind the locked gate at No 26 as well.

Natural & cultural values & signage

The plan provides opportunities to include information on Aboriginal story telling, and grassland species, etc. (No. 11, No. 13 and No. 28). This is supported. However, it is not clear what the intention here is, and how much information might be displayed. Before the plan is finalized, consideration needs to be given as to what information should be displayed, the level of detail, the graphics, and so on. This may impact on what information is presented and where.

A related consideration is that there should be a strong theme promoting Ngunnawal (and other relevant First Nation people) traditional land management, lore, culture, and language. As a start, it would be desirable to find a suitable Ngunnawal name for the reserve, although it could be argued that a suitable name should be allowed to evolve.

Similarly, there is an opportunity to use Ngunnawal language to name key features of the reserve such as viewpoints, pathways, etc. Aboriginal story telling should include explaining how First Nation People read and managed the landscapes and used plants and fauna. Ngunnawal language should be used in the explanations. Issues of copyright may need to be considered.

While the site at No. 13 provides information, it is queried whether this would be sufficient, and it is suggested that a separate additional facility may be provided. One suggestion is that there could be a display area, a second low-raised timber platform with attractive display boards, located in the woodland area and shaded. The area should be covered while allowing views of the grassland landscape to the south. This area could include something like an informal gathering space such as a semi-oval area with seating (possibly suitable stones) to allow teachers and students to gather for talks – an education opportunity for both school groups and community members.

The plan states that “standard ACT park signage” should be used at all pedestrian entries (No. 4 (x 3) and No. 30). It is not clear what the “standard act park signage” is, and more explanatory signage may be desirable at key entry points.

Natural features

Grasslands

There is strong support for placing the conservation of native grasslands first, and for the concept of modifying the southern mounds to extend the area of (page 27).

Woodlands

There is strong support for recognizing the values of the woodlands. This area should display a mosaic of shrubs and other habitat features (fallen branches, rocks etc.) with a grassy understory, together with good information about the site (covered signboards) as well as the informal gathering space already mentioned.

Ephemeral wetland

There is strong support for recognizing the values of the ephemeral wetland, including a discovery trail with engraved rock steppers. The plan could indicate a pathway to the steps.

It isn’t clear what is meant by “divert drainage swale runoff into ephemeral wetland”. Current drainage to the wetland would seem to be satisfactory.

Plantings around wetland should be low plants (e.g. sedges, grasses and forbs) to limit fauna (such as frogs and lizards) from being preyed upon by perching birds and to prevent obstruction to views of the ephemeral wetland from outside the reserve.

Drainage line & dam

More work needs to be done on the drainage line. The earth bridge over the outlet pipes on the east edge of the drainage line, falls away too quickly, and is dangerous. The earth bridge is part of the mown strip, although it is not known how mowers access this part of the reserve. People using the reserve, e.g. Parkcare volunteers will want to access this part of the reserve using the earth bridge. Something like wooden bridge or stairs is required, or, if that is not suitable, some earth works to lessen the slope.

Huge amounts of plastic items and other rubbish flow through the outlet pipe and are very unsightly. Rubbish collection nets should be placed on either end of the pipes on Flemington Road so that the rubbish may be collected and removed.

The outlet flow from the dam is creating a serious erosion gully down stream. This water needs to be diverted away from the gully and could be piped to another area that may be used to create a pond. This was recommended by Peter Hazell when he visited the reserve last year.

The drainage line, especially above and below the dam, and the easement area look very unsightly, and a landscape plan should set out what we are trying to achieve here and illustrate what it might look like. Essentially exotic vegetation should be removed and, possibly, ponding improved. 

Improving the habitat values of the dam (No. 31) is supported. 

Paths and mown strips

North and south gravel paths

The main north gravel path (between east entry, No. 1, and the north and west entries, No. 2 x 2) and the south gravel path (from No. 25 to No. 28 and No. 29) are supported. Are the paths suitable for wheelchairs?

Mown strips

The mown strips are historically required for fire abatement purposes and should be retained for this purpose. They also provide pathways for people to walk safely, and, generally, encourage people to use the mown strips and avoid trampling areas of natural temperate grassland. Using rock and other material to mark the mown strips from non-mown areas (No. 19) is supported.

The mown strip along the south-eastern border of the reserve should be shown on the plan if it is to be kept.

Proposal to add west gravel path

It is strongly recommended that a western gravel path be included along the western mown strip (starting at No. 4 (west) and join the southern gravel pathway at No. 25). This would join the northern and southern ends of the reserve, send a stronger message about keeping to the path (people are more inclined to keep to a formed path), provide people with a reasonable walk, and would not encroach on high quality grasslands. The pathway can be made closer or further away from the fence, as desired. It could be narrower than the northern and southern gravel paths.

The creation of a western gravel path may discourage people from using the eastern mown track which passes through high quality grassland areas. The current eastern mown strip is suffering from some erosion. If the eastern mown strip has heavy traffic and erosion gets worse, it may be desirable to put in an eastern gravel path which may actually assist in preventing erosion and deterioration of the grassland.

Woodland track(s)

The woodland track that links No. 4 (north), No. 12, No. 9 and No. 11 (east) is supported. However, its design may need to be modified around the suggested additional design features for the woodland area. While the track could be mown initially, consideration should be given to it eventually being gravel (but narrower than the north and south tracks).

Southern track

The southern track from No. 23 to the southern gravel path is supported. It could be made of gravel but would be narrower and of less quality than the western gravel pathway. The track could start from No. 22 (east) and could be extended to join the western gravel path at the north-eastern corner of Thea Astley Crescent.

Feature areas

FOG supports the feature areas in the plan: the raised garden beds (No. 11 2) to encourage pedestrians’ movement along pathways, incorporating engraved text (Aboriginal storytelling, grassland species, etc.) and including bush tucker plants and feature grassland species; the Billy Buttons play space (No. 12); and the raised platform (No. 13) to include a viewing/seating area and interpretative information.

Plantings

Generally there should be no tree plantings. The woodland area has sufficient trees of different ages, including remnant trees, and natural regeneration is taking place.

Trees should not be planted in the southern area (No. 27) as the aim should be to extend natural temperate grassland and associated habitat into this area. The southern area, being tree free, prevents perching opportunities for large birds to prey on small birds, water birds, moths, reptiles and Latham’s Snipe.

There should be no tree plantings on nature strips which would shade grasslands, provide perching opportunities for birds that may prey on smaller fauna, or obstruct views of the grasslands from outside the review. Some newly-planted trees on the nature strip should be removed.

While some visitors may prefer more shade, it should be remembered that this is primarily a grassland reserve and habitat for a number of grassland species. During very hot days, people are either unlikely to visit the reserve or likely to stay within the current woodland area which provides excellent shade.

Scattered shrub plantings are important in the woodland area. Some small patches of shrubs may be planted on the southern mound as proposed, but should not include anything too large. Tea tree can be planted along drainage lines in the gullies at the bottom of the natural temperate grassland areas.

Various gardens are proposed in the plan (e.g. No. 3, entrances to reserve, etc.). Grassland plantings will require special consideration to ensure that they are well designed and cared for to prevent them becoming weedy. The same consideration applies to revegetating the southern mound. Bush tucker food gardens are proposed and strongly supported, as are open areas for potential use in seed trials and experimental plantings (No. 15).

Other issues

Impact of management issues

Management of the reserve will require the transition of grassland areas to native grassland, by replacing areas of phalaris with native grasses and forbs. This may be achieved by grazing, mowing and/or fire. It is not clear how these strategies may impact the design.

The establishments of gardens at entry points and elsewhere and various landscaping features will require ongoing weeding. It is not clear how such areas would be maintained so that they look well cared for.  

Sculpture

There is reference to possibly including a sculpture at 14 (page 16)). Our view is that the sculpture would be best placed in a location that is visible from Flemington Road but not in a conservation area. Curious visitors would inevitably walk across to visit it, necessitating a track through this area. Such a sculpture needs to be positioned in a location where visitors can approach it from the paths without creating a track through a high quality area.

External connectivity

On page 2, the link to Kenny Grassland, south east of Franklin Grassland, should be shown.

Dog access

From a conservation perspective, FOG’s view is that dog access should not be permitted. Reasons are the difficulty in ensuring dogs are not off lead and that droppings are picked up. Even on-lead dogs may disturb wildlife. If it is decided to allow on-lead dogs in restricted areas (e.g. the northern part of the reserve), this requires very good signage and strict enforcement. The landscape plan should comment on sign posting about dog access restrictions whichever policy is adopted.