Royal National Park as World Heritage

While tempted to wish my “local” park to be spared the extra visitor pressure that World Heritage listing will bring, I hope that the increased focus on its sustainable management will support the sharing of Royal National Park’s treasures by visitors from around the world. But it won’t be easy.

Already, walking tracks wear deeply into soft sandstone. Weeds and fungal diseases creep into the fragile plant communities from disturbed edges. Large areas are sacrificially burned to protect  the poorly planned suburban fringe from bushfire.  Urban and mine drainage pollutes the Hacking River. Feral animals distort the balance of vegetation and native fauna. Developed areas are subjected to litter and compaction by visitors drawn by boating, kicking a football on a grassy flat or driving or riding through, without appreciating the significance and fragility of their surroundings. I confess to enjoying such a superficial view myself from time to time, swimming at a beach or flying over the coast in a hang glider.

It would take more than a lifetime to learn what a diversity of plants, birds and animals live in Royal National Park, let alone how they interact. But the beauty of its sparkling beaches and pools, its coastline, wildflowers and forests brings even naïve visitors back again and again to continue the learning process.

I trust that Heritage listing will be accompanied by an expansion of NP&WS resources for research, rehabilitation and a strong Ranger presence for interpretation, education and a watchful eye for careless damage or vandalism. We cannot afford to show future visitors the worn out shell of what was once a magnificent environment, maintained for millenia by its Dharawal custodians.

The Royal: What’s special for me?

What’s Special for Me?

I had the universe to myself this morning. Blue sky, a multitude of butterflies and birds, including Black Cockatoos. A freshwater creek to die for. Shade and a good book.

The Royal affords me a chance to wander and ponder in the silence and beauty of its bush. A bush that is scraggly and untidy, yet familiar and immensely interesting. I am not a botanist or biologist or a scientist of any kind, but I notice both the similarities and the differences of what I see. And I keep looking closer to notice more of the same…or of the difference, as the case may be.

I walk on the Park’s western edge 3 or 4 times a week. It is space for filling myself with ideas and wonder as much as it is a space for letting stuff go. Sometimes quickly, sometimes leisurely, I walk myself into physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. I gather thoughts and re-gather myself and I strengthen my connection with others in the natural world.

This Park is my place. In it, I have special places: my Ron tree, a tree stump where I remember an old friend who died in January 2010… he also used to walk there – we talked a lot; a feather tree, where I place found feathers in honour of the birds whose flight and sound fill the air; my grass-tree rocks for slow contemplation; a tree and a rock that remind me of time spent in the bush with my family; and a spot off to the side of one of the tracks where I drop a pebble and reflect on what it is to build good relationships.

This western edge is very familiar territory. Another home.I feel especially lucky when I walk in the heat of summer middays and the rain on any day – being out in those elements heightens the whole experience.

Phil Smith

27 November 2010