Wybejong Park Management Plan, 2009

Looking after the land requires an open mind and an inquisitive reappraisal of all management practices and continual group and self education. The Plan is only a guidance for future Park projects.

Wybejong is a linear parkland devoted to indigenous plants, with a walking track which connects it to the plantings of the first white settlers. It has both exotic specimen trees and indigenous plants.

Plans of management have been written in June 1997-1998, and updated in March 2003, when willow trees were the last major big weeds controlled in Wybejong Park in a list that includes plum trees, hawthorn, briar rose, serrated tussock, blackberry, gorse, bridal creeper, angled onion, thistles, etc.

Mindful of the recent disastrous fires in Victoria, Greening of Riddell wishes to ensure that Wybejong Park is maintained in accordance with guidelines approved at its inception by the then Department of Conservation and Environment, the Romsey Shire Council and the CFA.

The guidelines included: a limit to the number of rough barked species planted; that under-story be planted in specific contained sites rather than spread across the Park; that weedy invasions continue to be tackled; and that only a sparse number of River Red Gums Eucalyptus camaldulensis (or Manna Gums-E viminalis or Candlebarks- E rubida) be maintained in the old quarry site and the creek bed near the bridge.

Work scheduled for 2009 to assist fire prevention includes:

  • Cut out dead wood and remove/burn
  • Spray out exotic weeds that produce much biomass
  • Continue to mow long grass
  • Put in pipe extension at the western end of the vehicle access track
  • Cut Sugar Gum to allow easier access for fire trucks.

Climate change will mean less water and more heat. In planning for the future of our Parks we need to consider that in Victoria rainfall has been 15-20% below average over the last 12 years, thus dramatically reducing stream flows by 60-70% in our region. Temperature has risen by 0.8 degrees a year and we can expect more warming in spring and summer than in autumn and winter and less rain in winter and spring.

In Wybejong Park, we are in the favourable position of having controlled most of the woody weed species over the past 16 years (except in Area 2). We can now turn much of our attention to managing it as a native grassy woodland with an indigenous riparian corridor.

This is an exciting phase in the Park’s development, and much appreciation is due to the commitment of community volunteers over the years. It is possible to create an intact grassland on the land above the cliff, – a complex ecosystem with grasses, wild flowers, herbs, orchids, lilies, mat-rushes, ferns, etc. The “Plains Grassy Woodland” EVC model could act as a guide. We will need to replace trees and bushes as they die from drought/climate change or storm damage, but it is not desirable to increase the density of tree cover due to concern about fire. Many of the short-lived wattles will continue to replace themselves, but their use as nursery trees in a weedy environment has served its purpose. In setting realistic management objectives, we should acknowledge that all native grasslands will contain some exotic weeds

In the Park, the use of fire as a management strategy is limited due to Parks Victoria regulations; crash grazing is a bit problematic; hand weeding is impractical across the required areas; which leaves us with well-timed slashing and herbicide use. Also to resurrect plant species that may have seed or bulb in the soil, in a weedy site we could burn in spring before the weeds set seed, by slashing new growth and burning the grass in a mosaic of small areas. Parks Vic requires a 6? metre tract of bare earth around big burns, but small scale bonfire plots may be acceptable.

We need to:

  • Involve our volunteers in grass identification education, particularly mower and slasher operators. Training could include weed and native grass seed setting times, timing of slashing and decontamination of machinery.
  • Avoid slashing areas of native grass with machinery contaminated with seeds of exotic grass.
  • Leave native grasses unmown for a few months during flowering season so they can produce seed for next year.
  • Restoring the Park grasslands with predominantly indigenous grasses will promote:
  • Fire hazard reduction – some perennial indigenous grasses remain green through summer. Wallaby grass, for example, is slower growing and builds up less flammable material than *Phalaris or *Yorkshire Fog.
  • Minimal mowing. Less mowing = less volunteer hours, less petrol, less maintenance of machinery and less carbon emissions,
  • Resource conservation – less summer watering, less use of herbicide.
  • Avoidance of weed problems created by weeds seeding into good areas of native grassland.
  • Erosion control on poor soils – perennial natives have stronger roots.

Native trees and bushes establish better among native tussocks than weed infestations. Introduced grasses and modified soil nutrients lead to an imbalance in insect and hence bird populations.

The aesthetics of indigenous grasslands are more true if a natural feel is created, rather than the bright green of weed species.

A working ecosystem with its web of interrelationships is created, thus attracting butterflies and other fauna.

Conservation of species and floristic communities is important as grasslands in Victoria are below 1% of the original cover, but are home to 31% of Victoria’s endangered species.

To change the weedy nature of the Park patch by patch from bright green weedy grass to native grassland would mean that eventually we mow it less each year, or mow only 6M along the neighbour’s back fences. If you stand in McClusky Street and look across the top paddock to the Park, it is easy to think of the predominance of native grasses stretching from there all the way to the back of the church. At the eastern edge the grassland has a good buffer zone of Poa labillardierei. The Bradley view (1) of bringing back the bush is to consolidate the best areas, then work towards the weediest. The first task would be to get rid of the *Panic veldt, *Yorkshire Fog, *Fumitory weed, etc behind J.B.’s place and to spray out *Phalaris and *Cocksfoot across the whole Park so we are not shifting weed seed around when we mow. A wide vehicle access track would continue to be mowed, as it is, to keep open a good wide walking path. What is proposed is a long term vision of a grassland with wild flowers, more insects, birds and biodiversity – a lightly wooded grassland.

Being conscious of the “biting off more than you can chew” factor, sections of it can be done, scheduled into our monthly working bees for years.

  • We need to investigate/trial:
  • Seasonal monitoring and selective trial sites would be useful initially, to establish a plan to attack the weedier sections of the Park, which include Areas 3 and 5, the eastern end of Area 2 and the western end of Area 7.
  • Cutting green weed in spring and burning in a mosaic.

Indigenous plants are well adapted to the naturally infertile soils of our region. The weedier sections of the Park are areas that have had a lot of nutrient addition from storm water, gardening and septic tank run off, and possibly have high phosphorus and nitrogen. (The use of sugar to help re- establish native grasslands may be helpful).

Scraping off the weed seed infested top soil where the infestation is total and using it in garden beds

Spot spraying weed in spring. After *Phalaris and *Cocksfoot are sprayed out, delineate mowing rooms. Before you mow from one room to the other, you clean/blow down the slasher first. Examples of mowing rooms could be

  • Room 1 – behind John Ball’s and neighbour
  • Room 2 – behind Harrans’ and Vincents’
  • Room 3 – behind James’s house and around Wollemi Pine
  • Room 4 – the top of the paddock behind Moore’s and vet’s shed block
  • Set up a fenced trial spot using the least labour and least chemical option.

Greening of Riddell continues to take an interest in the restoration work at Smith’s Nursery. In 2003, a group of trainee arborists from NMIT did remedial work on numerous trees and John Testro continues to give invaluable help. See pages 22 – 25 for a report on a visit to Smith’s Nursery by John Hawker from Heritage Victoria in 2002.

Greening of Riddell’s commitment to Waterwatch involves monthly monitoring of physical and chemical parameters, working with primary school students on macro-invertebrate survey, and sampling of sites further upstream to compare water quality, including Conglomerate Gully, to provide a baseline.

Greening of Riddell is a member of the Jacksons Creek EcoNetwork.

The parks and reserves in Riddells Creek need attention on a more regular basis, such as a paid full or part time mower/gardener/conservationist who could work with the various management committees. The township of Riddells Creek has been associated with gardening and plantsmen since its beginning. Before its beginning, its claim to being a special place for flora can be seen at Barrm Birrm or by reading Macedon Range Flora – A Photographic Guide to the Flora of Barrm Birrm, Riddells Creek, by Russell Best and David Francis, Riddells Creek Landcare. Or see www.riddellscreeklandcare.org.au

* asterisk before the plant name denotes introduced species.

(1) Bringing Back the Bush by Joan Bradley