Bairnsdale Urban Landcare Group Inc (BULG) was formed in 1999 following concerns from residents about the badly degraded state of the Mitchell River and its environs. Native vegetation was poorly managed; exotic weeds had invaded; silver poplars were taking over; there was poor access to the river; a walking track needed upgrading and extension; limited views of the river; and failure to treat the river and its environs as an asset.
Since its formation, BULG has been involved in the redevelopment and construction of walking tracks; the removal of poplars; establishment of the 2 year adopt-a-site program in 2003, where the northern bank was divided into 19 sites and community groups invited to ‘adopt a site’ for two years to plant and maintain the sites. Many local schools, the community college, local businesses, families and Landcare members signed up and subsequent revegetation of both sides of the river saw 12,000 indigenous trees planted. Over 35,000 seedlings have now been planted across all of our sites. Maintenance and weed control continues; interpretive signage has been installed; 2 flower plots have been established to promote local indigenous flower species and water monitoring is a regular occurrence.
Community engagement has been one of our core activities from our first working bee to clean up rubbish to our 20th birthday celebrations in 2019. Our group works in partnership with various schools, colleges, scout groups and engages with and supports like-minded groups such as Friends of Bats & Habitat Gippsland. National Tree Day on the banks of the river and anything up to 80 cubs, scouts and parents join Landcare members to plant, guard, water and mulch 400 to 500 seedlings in the ever-expanding scout plot on the north bank. We have been working with the scouts for almost 10 years and have assisted scouts with their Landcare badges and the necessary volunteer work needed for the Duke of Edinburgh award.
Federation Training VCAL students started working with BULG in 2016 when they resurrected the old community college site on the north bank. This group also collaborated with us in the Port of Bairnsdale project. Some students initially admitted they chose Landcare as an escape from the classroom but they quickly became involved in the work. Their work was rewarded with a regional Landcare award in 2017. For the past two years the Landcare group has been working regularly with VCAL students from Bairnsdale Secondary College. Again the students have taken ownership of a site along the north bank and are creating a new sign for their patch. This work is part of the VCAL personal development program which provides opportunities for the students to expand their observation skills, practise problem solving and increase their creativity and team building skills. BULG, Bairnsdale Scout group and Bairnsdale Secondary College VCAL students were nominated in the 2019 Victorian Landcare Awards for their revegetation work.
In 2019 BULG began working with Noweyung, an organisation that caters for people with different abilities and that was keen to include some meaningful environmental activities in their curriculum. BULG members meet with Noweyung participants twice a month for Landcare related activities.
The 5.4km Mitchell River Walking Track is now a popular tourist and community destination and attracts thousands of visitors each year. Revegetating this important riparian zone with indigenous plants has assisted with erosion control and enhanced water infiltration; created a wildlife corridor, providing habitat for significant birds and animals and providing an additional refuge for indigenous fauna in a time of climate change (bird species in the area have doubled); and potentiates carbon sequestration.