Hundreds of people have taken advantage of the reopening of sections of the national parks west of Canberra following ongoing bushfire recovery efforts and the recent easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
After the Mt Franklin Road, Bendora and Coree regions reopened last weekend, ACT Parks and Conservation recorded good visitor numbers.
More than 100 people visited the areas each day after restrictions were lifted. The traffic counter at the Bulls Head picnic area in the Brindabella Ranges recorded more than 50 vehicles between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm last Sunday, while the Cotter campground had up to 50 people per night during the weekend.
More visitors are expected again for the second long weekend in a row for Canberrans.
Minister for the Environment and Heritage Mick Gentleman welcomed the reopening of the Bendora Arboretum, Bendora Picnic area, Mt Franklin Chalet and Bulls Head picnic area for the first time following the Orroral Valley bushfire.
The areas were first closed in December last year due to extremely dry conditions and impending bushfire risk.
“This is an important recovery milestone for the Canberra community following the fire, which burnt over 80 per cent of Namadgi National Park and 22 per cent of Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve,” Mr Gentleman said.
He added that he looked forward to making further announcements about a staged plan to reopen Namadgi National Park.
“Thanks to the hard work and efforts of the bushfire recovery team during the closures, damaged infrastructure has been repaired and the Mt Franklin Road, Bendora and Coree regions are now safe for the community to return to.
“Many of the roads were impacted by floods following the fire, which caused erosion issues and swept large amounts of sediment and debris across access roads.”
Mt Gingera and the Stockyard Spur walking trails were damaged in the fire and repair efforts are ongoing. These trails will not be reopened until they are fully restored.
Mt Franklin Road is open up to Mt Franklin Chalet gate.
“As we head into the colder months, it is important for the community to note that this road may once again close due to icy conditions,” Mr Gentleman said.
“The remainder of Namadgi National Park and the visitor’s centre remain closed as we continue to repair key infrastructure including roads, signage, walking tracks and trails.
“The ACT Parks and Conservation Service has made significant progress on recovery efforts and is working toward a staged approach to reopening sections of the park as repairs are completed over coming months.
“When visiting any park, reserve or open space in the ACT, it is still vital that the community and volunteers continue to comply with physical distancing measures,” Mr Gentleman said.
Maximum occupancy restrictions are in place across all campsites in line with the latest ACT COVID-19 health advice. Any gatherings held on-site also need to adhere to the ACT’s restrictions on gatherings which are limited to a maximum of 20 people.
Park rangers will work closely with police to patrol ACT parks and reserves. Anyone found in a closed nature reserve can be given an on-the-spot fine of up to $1500.
“I am looking forward to seeing people out exploring these areas once more,” Mr Gentleman said.
ACT campsites that have also reopened include Cotter campground, Kowen campground, Blue Range campground and the Centenary Trail Northern Border campsite.
Honeysuckle Creek campground, Mt Clear campground, Orroral campground, the Woods Reserve campground, as well as the Ready Cut Cottage and Nils Desperandum homesteads remain closed to allow for ongoing bushfire recovery efforts.