Visitors to the Broken-Boosey State Park were met with an unusual sight one sunny afternoon. Amid the towering trees and squawking of cockatoos, a section of the Broken Creek was lined with walking frames and wheelchairs.
Residents of the nearby Numurkah Lodge Nursing home had ventured into the park for a day of fishing and reminiscing.
Stories of great fishing catches from bygone days, and the ones that got away, flowed as freely as the creek they sat beside.
For park ranger Andrew McDougall the day was a prime example of the valuable role the park plays in the local community.
“The old-timers had a ball poking about the creek. They told stories, relived memories and had a great day enjoying the outdoors,” he said.
“I see my role as protecting this special environment while finding ways to help people enjoy it.”
Declared only four years ago, the Broken-Boosey State Park is a unique linear corridor spanning 1030 hectares along the Broken, Nine Mile and Boosey Creeks.
It acts as a highway for animals linking the Warby Ranges to the Murray River and has one of the last remaining box ironbark forests in the state.
The park also boasts strong aboriginal heritage and is home to around 130 scar trees – which bear the marks where indigenous people have carved out canoes and shields from the trees over many years.
Much of Andrew’s role is to help the community understand the park and its importance.
“There were a lot of myths floating around. People were worried that they would be locked out, that they wouldn’t be allowed to fish, that they couldn’t drive in the park or ride horses, and on it went.”
“But by taking the time to talk to people and help them see why it’s important to protect the creek and the vegetation, I’ve seen attitudes change quite a lot.”
For the record, fishing and on-lead dogs are still allowed, cars and horses are allowed on formed roads, and farmers can even still drive stock through the park.
“We try to be flexible and work with the local community as much as possible so they support the park and help protect the creek,” Andrew said.
“I find that most landholders have a strong sense of connection with the local landscape. Often they have just never been shown their actions can impact the environment for good or bad.”
The rewards of Andrew’s community focus are starting to pay off and locals are appreciating the benefits.
Park improvements include: better roads and fencing; less weeds and vermin; the return of native plants and animals; and improved water quality.
But Andrew is quick to point out he’s not a one-man crew. Along with other Parks Victoria staff, he has the support of the Catchment Management Authority, Goulburn-Murray Water and a community advisory panel that includes landowners, the Victorian Farmers Federation and government agencies.
Local dairy farmers are also undertaking works in the park to help supplement their income during the drought.
“This has been a real community-wide effort. People are realising the value the creeks add to the whole community.”
Story by Tracey Cheeseman