Celebrating 20 Years in the Parks

25 November 2006

This year is a significant one, commemoratinge 20 years of "The Friends" working in the Parks with the department of Environment and Heritage, the community, schools and service groups.

When Peter Westwood wrote to the local paper in 1986 to invite like minded people to contribute to the maintenance of Morialta Conservation Park, who would have thought that 20 years later, a thriving volunteer organization would have contributed tens of thousands of volunteer hours to three Conservation Parks. Today we have 76 members plus 14 Young Friends, a total of 90. But we are more that the sum of our members, and it would be remiss of us not to acknowledge the contribution that other groups have made to the care and maintenance of the Parks:

Photo taken in October 2006
The group at our celebration
And of course, always there to provide support, advice and guidance, the many rangers and staff we have worked with over the years from the Department of Environment and Heritage.

Thanks also to the Cambelltown Primary School for continuing to assist the group by providing photocopying facilities at a very reasonable cost.

I am privileged to represent to group in its 20th year, and would like to take a moment to reflect on some significant events over the last 20 years.

Dipping into our archives reveals a wealth of achievements, and the list way too long to detail here, so here is a sample.

 28 August 1986 was the inaugural meeting for the group;
our newsletter commences.
1987Planting commences in the First Project site at Olive Hill
9th November 1989 the group was incorporated.
The Montacute Valley ARPA project commenced
1990Agreement is made between the department and "The Friends" to use the Addison Ave building in return for upkeep of the Wildflower Garden;
The Ghost Tree Gully project commences.
1991Black Hill and Morialta Track Map published.
Ambers Gully Collaborative Schools Project commences.
Horsnell Gully project commences 25 May 1991.
1993An open day was held in the Wildflower Garden to support the celebration of Campbelltown Council's 125 years.
2037 plants sited in seven project areas in the parks.
1995The Ambers Gully Collaborative Schools Project wins the South Australian Landcare Award.
19964th Creek Walking Trail Project commences
1997The Ambers Gully Collaborative Schools Project was a State finalist for the South Australian Landcare Awards.
Member, Ann awarded a service certificate for her contributions to the group at the Annual Friends of Parks Forum.
1,310 plants sited, over 1,600 volunteer hours contributed
1998Ambers Gully Collaborative Schools Project is awarded the Water Care award for Catchment Care and restoration.
The Friends of Black Hill and Morialta Inc chosen as the Friends Group of the year 1999.
The Ambers Gully Collaborative Schools Project is awarded the KESAB Metropolitan Environment Award 1999.
1,970 plants sited
Membership 67, plus 13 Young Friends, a total of 80.
2000A new track map for Horsnell Gully produced.
Black Hill and Morialta track maps revised and reprinted.
Sited 1,470 plants, and contributed $50,000 worth of work in volunteer hours.
General membership of 77 plus 10 Young Friends, a total of 87.
2001The group lobbies for the removal of Horses from the Coffin Bay Conservation Park.
1,500 plants sited, and $50,000 worth of Volunteer hours contributed.
General membership 79 plus 12 Young Friends, a total of 91 members.
2002The group continues to lobby for the removal of Horses from the Coffin Bay Conservation Park.
The Group of the Decade award is given to the Friend of Black Hill and Morialta Inc.
The Friends group raised the issue of chemical use, outside the prescribed applications and rates listed on the labels. - Such practice is widespread in environmental weed management, but not covered by current regulations.
The Friends of Black Hill and Morialta Inc. website is launched.
2,450 plants sited, with over $50,000 worth of volunteer hours contributed.
2003The horses are finally removed from the Coffin Bay Conservation Park.
The Ambers Gully Collaborative Schools Project was awarded the Nature Foundation S.A.s Highly Commended Biodiversity Award.
2,450 plants were sited by volunteers.
2004We support a proposal for the rehabilitation of the Ambers Gully Quarry, and are continuing to lobby for this work to be done.
2005Members, Joy and Bruce are recognised for the work done in Horsnell Gully with the Friends Landcare award.
Our website gets it own domain name: fobhm.org (up to 11:20am 28 November 2006, we have had 14,842 hits on our website)
Sited 2051 plants, and contributed $44,260 in volunteer hours.
2006Finally success with the lawful use of particular herbicides for environmental projects, with environmental weeds listed, rates of application and application methods identified and approved, not just for our group, but for all groups and individuals working on protecting and restoring our native habitat.
Interpretive sign at Ambers Gully ruin completed and ready for installation.
The number of local native plants raised and planted in the Wildflower garden project site alone reached nearly 9,000 this year.
My report on our contribution to the parks this year is very conservative as there are a number of work reports outstanding. But we have contributed more than $30,000 in volunteer labour and sited more than 2134 plants.
Also in 2006 we celebrated 20 years of membership for 11 members
And exceeding 10 year membership for 23 members.
We have also welcomed 8 new members this year.

You will have read of the many awards that the Ambers Gully Collaborative Schools Project has attracted over its life. Not to mention the impact it has had on many young people. Graham, I am sure would be very happy to speak to you about this after the meeting. Despite these achievements, funding for this project is an ongoing challenge. A source of uncertainty and great frustration for all those involved. Our special thanks to Mitre 10 and Richard Fassbender for his generous contributions to this project.

Also in 2005 and 2006, we continue to find plants of rated conservation significance growing in locations they were not previously identified, and found plants not previously listed as growing in Morialta Conservation Park. These are really exiting finds. With Joy and Bruce attending a grass identification workshop this year, we might be in a position to identify even more special plants.

We have made many Friends over the last 20 years, and along the way, some have been lost to us. Their memory however remains with us, and we think of them too, as we remember their contributions to the last 20 years.

Looking forward into the next 20 years, well, who can truly tell us what the future holds? We know that climate change is bearing down upon the natural world, and the pockets of our environmental heritage left are under greater pressure than ever. We have the unstoppable Phytophthora in the Parks, the ever present weed species, especially Olives. And just when we thought Bridal Creeper had a chance of being put under control, a new form that is resistant to the Bridal Creeper rust.

Yet somehow I do have hope, more now than for a long time, and the reason for that, is going through our archives that span just 20 years, I have read the accounts, and seen the photographic evidence of the positive changes this one group has made to these three parks. It is truly remarkable. The challenge is to keep the focus, maintain and recruit new members, and promote the importance of our natural heritage, the very stuff that makes the planet function, to the rest of the community.

I would like to especially thank the strong committee that provides a sound foundation for the group.

John Fleming
Friends of Black Hill and Morialta Inc..

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