A planned accessible pathway, bridge and boardwalk through Popes Glen will destroy the area, says a group who have been caring for the wetland in Blackheath for decades.
In almost 30 years, the Popes Glen Bushcare Group, who regard themselves as the "custodians of the site", have turned the area from a degraded wasteland, to a thriving wetland, thanks to countless volunteer hours, and were horrified to learn of Blue Mountains council plans for the area.
The group's co-ordinator, Alan Lane, said a concrete path about 700m long was planned, which would cut across the steep, northern edge of Popes Glen before turning across the wetland towards the caravan park. It would be bounded on both sides by metal rails, with many sections standing on high posts to minimise the gradient on the slope and avoid storm surges on the wetland.
"This is an iconic educational site that is a haven for birdwatchers, frog enthusiasts and environmentalists, with its successful regeneration drawing ecologists from around the world and large groups of local university students to study it," Mr Lane said.
"The proposed imposing structure will loom over swathes of now-nearly pristine bushland and the restored iconic wetland.
"It would dominate the whole vista and landscape."
Mr Lane believes the path as proposed, would require massive excavation, involving removal of a huge amount of vegetation, including tree species Eucalyptus dalrympleana and Eucalyptus piperita, found only in this area within the Blue Mountains.
The chemicals in the concrete would also detrimentally affect the stream, by influencing the base of the aquatic food chain, particularly the microscopic water plants such as algae.
He said the group would prefer a simple dirt track, only about 350m in length, which has less impact on the environment, and could link the duck pond with the existing track to Govetts Leap, and had suggested this to council.
"Popes Glen is essentially the gateway for walkers from Blackheath to the World Heritage National Park and all the walks of the Grose Valley area. It provides the ideal setting for a world-class track, akin to those in Tassie or New Zealand that are minimally invasive and environmentally sensitive," Mr Lane said. "A link from the duck pond to the main Popes Glen/Govetts Leap track makes complete sense."
He said the group thought an accessible path, suitable for wheelchairs and strollers, was better suited to around the duck pond.
He and the group's co-founder, Virginia King, are determined to see a better solution found.
"It's very demoralising after everything we have been through with the site. It's the breaking of your spirit," Ms King said.
A Blue Mountains council spokeswoman said council was aware of concerns raised by the Bushcare group.
"Current exploratory work will allow council to prepare more detailed designs for the project. The project, including detailed designs and the environmental impact assessment, will be publicly exhibited and available to the broader community for comment," she said. The project is expected to go on public exhibition mid-2020.
Mayor Mark Greenhill said: "I have asked staff if they would mind calling those expressing concern to work through the proposal with them further, ahead of the detailed design work."