Almost 30 years ago, a local Blackheath couple had a vision for a patch of bush across the road from the Memorial Park duck pond.
Alan Lane and Virginia King formed Popes Glen Bushcare group in 1989 to remove the masses of mainly European weeds and return the area to its natural state.
Their project got a boost six years ago, with a grant from the NSW Environment Trust.
Now, thousands of volunteer hours later, the once weed-infested wasteland is a healthy wetland.
Dr Lane, co-ordinator of the group, said: “Approximately 65 volunteers have contributed an impressive 4,257 hours to the project since 2012.”
They were supported by 5,303 hours of professional contractor assistance.
“We are very proud of this achievement,” Dr Lane said. “Our strength was working together using evidence-based learning to implement an adaptive management approach to wetland management and restoration, which is now widely recognised in the environmental management field.”
The group successfully removed one hectare of willows from an unstable sediment flat at the creek headwaters, pioneered innovative stormwater control strategies to enable weed removal and reduce the flow of pollutants and sediment to the National Park, and engaged with over 600 students, residents and professionals.
Their work generated significant interest from stormwater engineering professionals and students and led to two scientific publications by the group.
The project has been a successful collaboration between the volunteers of the Popes Glen Bushcare group, the Blue Mountains Bushcare Network, BMCC (which provided both financial and in-kind support), local bush regeneration contractor The Bush Doctor, local businesses and, importantly, $233,132 funding from the NSW Environmental Trust.
The successful six-year project was celebrated last month when the final piece – informative signage – was unveiled.
The mayor, Mark Greenhill, said: “The efforts of this long standing Bushcare group exemplify the Bushcare spirit and the proud history of community involvement in conservation and land management in the Blue Mountains.”
The NSW environment minister Gabrielle Upton, said the group’s hard work and commitment had produced “amazing results”.
The project is also detailed in a book, Decades of healing: from wasteland to wetland, written by Dr Lane and Paul Vale, project managers (available here).
Mr Vale said while the Environment Trust grant has finished, the group, with council support, has committed to a further four years of unfunded work to maintain the gains that have been made.