On Mt Stirling in north eastern Victoria’s High Country, there is a lone snow gum, which is several hundred years old. Earlier this year, someone heavily pruned branches from the tree, which sparked a debate about access to the mountain top.
There is a 4WD track over the alpine area of the summit. This year the Howqua Gap Track will open to the public who want to drive over the mountain from 29 November through to early May. Many people drive over the mountain during summer months, and sometimes there is poor behaviour from drivers, who take their vehicles off track. Some trail bike riders also take their bikes offtrack to the summit. This has environmental impacts and reduces the experience that many other visitors are seeking in exploring the mountain. As a result, some additional track works and signage has now been put in place. It is a shame that poor behaviour by a few has resulted in additional works needing to be carried out on the mountain.
Mt Buller resort management have recently made the following statement:
Please follow all road and safety signage when you are in the Resort. It’s there to keep you safe and to protect fragile terrain.
This summer, you will notice varied improvements in the vicinity of the summit that have been implemented to further protect this beautiful part of Mt Stirling. These include:
– Fencing along the Summit Track to protect high alpine vegetation
– New interpretive sign at the Stirling Tree highlighting its significance and heritage status.
– Additional regulatory signage including expected behaviours when visiting Mt Stirling.
Friends of Mt Stirling say:
Many changes have been made to the summit area to increase protection of its natural values and reverse the processes of degradation. However, we have not seen any public announcement or official images from Resort Management regarding the changes.
We do know that there is new signage. Embankments have been created and fencing added to keep vehicles on the roadways, and off the grass.
Alpine grass is not like suburban grass. There is snow grass only because it is one of the few plants that can survive the freezing conditions that occur almost every night of the year. But snow grass cannot endure being driven on, in addition to freezing cold. If the grass dies it leaves bare patches which easily erode into gullies.
Recovery usually requires human intervention and decades of protection.
It is also very important that no fires are lit on the summit area, summer or winter. Each fire leaves a scar on the landscape. Bushfire is a serious risk in summer.
There is no fire pit, bbq, stove, or fuel of any kind on the summit area. If heat is needed for cooking, please bring your own small camping stove that uses liquid or gas fuel.
The Friends of Mount Stirling recommend that the best ways to experience the summit area are to go there on foot, on skis, on a mountain bike, or as part of a tour group with a professional guide. The silence and exercise are good for both body and soul.
And of course, there is the solitary ancient snow gum which has endured centuries of harsh conditions. The tree is heritage listed and needs the care and protection of everyone. Walk up the rubber-tiled track and say “G’day old mate”.
If you are a first time visitor, please be aware that there is neither shade nor toilets on the summit area. The weather can change very quickly, so be prepared.
To maximise enjoyment of the summit area for everyone, please stay on the safe side of any safety barriers, and obey the directions of officials and signage. If you see machinery, engineering supplies, or works in progress, please stay away.