President’s Report, March/April

Welcome to country, to the Campbell Rhododendron Gardens which grows on the land of the traditional custodians—the Gundungurra and Darug people—and we pay respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging.

A few days before Christmas, the Grose Valley fire entered the Gardens on the northern side along Ridgewell Road and the Ridgewell track. Thankfully, the fire-fighters were able to contain it at the bottom of the valley, but it burned out approximately 1/3 of the 18.3Ha site, completely decimating the native bushland, the swamp and our precious Species Valley. It also took out the Rhododendrons along the QUOTA Walk as well as those below the Maple Walk.

This damage and devastation from the fire was initially overwhelming, so at our first Management Committee meeting in January, a FIVE-POINT-PLAN was developed for restoration:

  1. On-going Maintenance
  2. Safety Management
  3. Drought Recovery
  4. Lake Restoration
  5. Fire Recovery

On-going Maintenance: Already, Azaleas have been pruned; roof leaks in the Lodge have been fixed; the ponds behind the Lodge have been emptied, sealed and refilled; and a myriad of small but necessary tasks have been completed. There’s still so much to be done.

Safety Management: Over 100 burned-out/dangerous trees and branches have been removed. Some were cut up for firewood, some rolled into shallow ravines to prevent soil erosion, and others were left as wild-life habitat. Currently, we are waiting to have the Bob Baker Walk and the service road re-surfaced, as the heavy rains in February have left dangerous grooves in the asphalt.

The torrential rainfall caused a river to cascade through the burned-out Gardend’ land

Drought Recovery: We are not able to hand-water every plant, so we lost some to the drought and many are looking unwell. Following Dick Harris’ system we have been digging holes around the drip lines, putting in a sprinkling of water crystals topped with water, and spraying the leaves with Envy. The subsequent rain has finished the job for us and many plants are surviving.

Lake Restoration: The heavy rains have re-filled the Lake. This happened before we had a chance to clean up the weeds on the island, or line the Lake bed. The water has brought back the frogs…but the dilemma of the ‘disappearing water’ has not yet been solved. We’ve engaged a specialist in water courses and dams to help fix the problem, and this work will commence soon. In the meantime we are so happy to be deafened by the happy frog-song.

Fire Recovery: This is the biggest task. We have been inundated with offers of assistance from as far afield as California and as close as Mt Tomah and Katoomba. Much—from seeds and clippings to fully grown shrubs—has been donated to replace the burned Rhododendrons. Some of these donated Rhodos have already been planted along the QUOTA Walk.

Points 2, 4 and 5 of the FIVE-POINT-PLAN are the most expensive to achieve—the burned-tree felling and removal, alone, cost $50,000. So we applied for three grants, two of which we have received. The first has paid for the tree felling, and the second will go towards the Lake restoration. We also have been given dollar donations from many Garden Clubs as well as from individuals who love these Gardens. We are eternally grateful.

There’s still a long list of things to be done—burned bench seats, post and rails, mini bridges, plant and track labels. We called in Wild Plant Rescue in to evaluate the native bushland, and they advise waiting one year before re-planting in this area. It will be a huge cost as we’ll need hundreds of plants. We are looking at the stock list from Toolangi Nurseries in Victoria to see what we can find for Rhododendron plant replacements.

Most heartening has been the volunteering assistance we have received. Groups of students—one from Boston University, and the other from the International Hotel Management School in Leura—both spent a day helping to clear debris whilst learning about the impact of the fires on the native vegetation and wild-life, as well as on tourism. Additionally, we’ve had an influx of local volunteers, some for a day, and others who have signed on for the long haul.

Some MonVols, with students from the Torres University International Hotel Management School

Finally, “thank you” to those Clubs who have invited Julia and me to give our presentation about the Gardens. We are more than happy to visit any other Clubs to present the talk.

President: Deb Wells

13th March 2020

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