Fire trail vs nature walk

Local concern: Kim Grace, Janene Theol, Jenn Price and Owen Williams in front of some of the trees earmarked to go on the Hourn/Hornes Point fire trail at Mt Victoria.
Local concern: Kim Grace, Janene Theol, Jenn Price and Owen Williams in front of some of the trees earmarked to go on the Hourn/Hornes Point fire trail at Mt Victoria.

A plan to remove 60 trees along a fire trail at Mt Victoria has led to calls for a reassessment from locals.

A group of concerned residents has asked council to rethink the plan. While they understand that vegetation often has to be removed to keep fire trails safe for firefighters, they also believe plans for the Hornes Point trail near Mt Piddington take it a step too far.

Hornes Point (also called Hourn Point) trail is a popular walk in the Upper Mountains, culminating in a stunning view of the Kanimbla Valley.

But many walkers were distressed recently to see an "X" for removal marked on dozens of trees, as well as a large number painted with a dot to signify they would be pruned.

Local Janene Theol said residents recognised the need for fire trail maintenance and safety issues, "but we believe this is overkill. There are about 60 trees to be removed and another 60 to be cut back."

Some were old trees which provided habitat for birds and/or animals; others were located some distance back from the trail, Ms Theol said.

Another local, Owen Williams, said it was a matter of "trying to get the balance" between clearing a path and keeping the integrity of the bush intact.

A council spokeswoman said the residents' concerns had been heard and it has now postponed the clearing until it receives a report on the maintenance plan.

"The Hourn Point fire trail ... is classified as a 'tactical' fire trail in the Fire Access and Fire Trails Plan produced by the multi-agency bushfire management committee," she said.

"In response to council's fire trail maintenance obligations, vegetation management work is proposed to be undertaken along the track, in accordance with the RFS fire trail standards. This will involve pruning or the removal of marked trees, as well as the clearance of ground level vegetation within two metres of the trail margins.

"The intent is to provide a corridor free of obstructions for fire appliances, plus space alongside the trail for firefighters to work (e.g. open truck doors, access equipment in cabinets without being in the bushes).

"Trees are also selected for pruning or removal on the basis of structural defects and other damage that may make them hazardous to firefighters if they become fire affected."

But council has also heard the concerns of the community and has deferred the work until an external assessment looks at the proposed works, the spokeswoman said.

Council will also get advice on any options to minimise the extent of vegetation removal and will then liaise with the community, she said.