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My how things have changed at Point Cook

Wednesday 12 December, 2012

Point Cook Coastal Park has just celebrated its 30th birthday. Back in 1982, when the land was handed over to the Government, it was an isolated collection of wetlands, salt marshes and grasslands. Now it’s almost surrounded by new houses and is a Mecca for birdwatchers and walkers.

Ranger in Charge John Argote remembers when there was nothing much between the park and the city, just 15km away. “We now have neighbours 24 metres from the park boundary and there are two and a half houses a week being built at Point Cook.

In the early days thirty staff managed just the one park, now there are five Parks Victoria Rangers for the area from Point Cook to Limeburners Bay. Visitor numbers have gone from 100,000 to 300,000 in the last 10 years, and with its Beach Picnic Area, BBQs, shade shelters and two playgrounds, it’s a very popular place for recreation. The Rangers also manage ongoing programs to keep weeds and feral animals under control in the park and maintain its walking tracks and facilities.

When the commercial salt pans of the Cheetham Salt Company were added to the park in 1996, rangers took on the job of keeping the water and salinity levels at a healthy state using a series of pumps. “That’s particularly important for the thousands of migratory birds who rest and fatten up here before returning to Siberia,” says Ranger Bernie Mc Carrick, who was a former site manager for Cheethams. “We measure the salinity levels every two weeks, but it’s the number of birds feeding on the mudflats that really tells us if the levels are good.”

The Bay Trail from Williamstown, which currently ends at the park’s southern boundary, will also bring more people to the park, and add to the increasing human pressure on this natural landscape.

John Argote says it’s important for the future of the park that the growing local community appreciates its value as a rich natural environment, and understands the need for neighbourly responsibility such as keeping dogs on leads and not allowing cats to roam.

“We’re now running programs to bring local people into the park and show them why this is a special place and how they can help us look after it. After all, there’s already a common bond; it’s a place where both birds and people are migrating to, in great numbers.”  

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