A walk on the “wild” side of Bridport with local bush walking identity Mike Douglas in late 2004 planted the seed of an idea in the minds of three local women.
Why not reclaim this last remaining patch of ancient forest and fragile riverside environment from the ravages of trail bikes, indiscriminate timber cutting as well as dumping of rubbish.
They quickly recognised that this could best be done via the construction of a walking track on the crown land that would have the added advantage of linking to the existing tracks and conveniently encircle the seaside village of Bridport.
The three women Marg Perkins, Diana Hardy Wilson and the late Carrie Harrison, understood that this would link the existing foreshore and wildflower reserve tracks to the forests and Brid River and might just be the key to preserving a rapidly disappearing environment.
Carrie’s original research soon uncovered the fact that this was not a new idea. It had been talked about in various community networks for over 20 years. Carrie managed to unearth some detailed plans for just such a track that had been drawn up in the 1980s.
This motivated the group to organise a number of cleanups of the river area during 2006/2007 with Dorset NRM and gradually the idea that the dream could become a reality took hold.
After Carrie died from breast cancer in January 2009, Marg and Dee were joined by Jen Whenn and Gayle Edson and the hard slog of convincing the local council and community of the value of the project began in earnest. Eventually, $250,000 was given by the State Government.
This was a big step forward, but a chance conversation opened up the possibility of utilising the Federal Government’s Green Jobs Fund to not only create a funding pool for a high class track, but also provide training and employment for up to 30 local trainees. After much redrafting of applications and late night wines $750,000 was provided to Bridport Innovations for the track employment project.
Now for planning approval – not as easy as it sounds – given the complicated nature of the track including bridge building and
drainage, as well as the concerns of some neighbouring landowners. Nevertheless, Bridport Innovations contracted Conservation Volunteers Australia to build the track under the redoubtable Project Manager Judy Barnett, and work finally began in September 2010.
At 1:15pm on July 14, 2011 the track was completed and the last wheel barrow load of top gravel laid. At the same time the 30 trainees who built the track completed their formal training in Certificate II Conservation and Land Management.
This remarkable crew had finally completed a 4.7 km extension to the Bridport Walking track network. Via a total of 1150 tonnes gravel, 17,900 wheelbarrow loads and 550,000 shovel fulls the dream was no more – the track was a reality!
Since the official opening on July 29, 2011 people have voted with their feet and are walking in great and appreciative numbers.
Many thanks to the Bridport Innovations Committee and to Carrie, whose spirit lives on in the Bridport River – Forest Walk.