Fire damaged tracks
Even before the winter snows had melted, six contractor teams with 26 crew had begun working across five remote tracks – Lake Judd, Mt Anne, McKays tracks, the Farmhouse Creek Track to Federation Peak, and Huon Track. The goal is to have several of them open by early autumn – to reach that there'll be a lot of hard yakka – and the teams are up for it.
Reconstruction of Lake Judd and Mt Anne tracks commenced in August, with three contractor teams of 16 crew working seven days a week.
Mt Anne Track has about 4 kilometres of fire affected track, which requires more than 500 metres of timber planking, over 2400 steps and 400 water bars to be rebuilt. Lake Judd Track is approximately 7.3 km long, of which the first 6 km is fire affected. Although the remaining section is not fire affected, a grant from Wildcare's Wild Bushwalking Tracks fund has enabled double-planking to reduce trail-braiding across the buttongrass plains.
These two tracks form the 34 km Mt Anne Circuit, which is one of Tasmania's most challenging backcountry bushwalking tracks. Wildcare funding is also enabling PWS to reduce the impact of camping in this fragile environment by installing fly-out toilets at Shelf Camp and Lonely Tarns, and constructing tent platforms at Lonely Tarns.
Slow steady work
Crews are camping out in the wilderness for nine days at a time, working in dramatically changing weather and harsh temperatures that range from subzero to a sweltering 30 degrees.
Since September burnt, fallen and hazardous vegetation has been cleared on McKays Track, Farmhouse Creek Track to Federation Peak, and Huon Track. It is expected that this work on the burnt vegetation will continue through summer on several of these tracks.
Crews toil with hand tools and minor power tools to remove the burnt timber boardwalk, damaged steps and water bars (these divert water off the track). Once this material out of the way rebuilding to the current track standards begins.
More than 160,000 kg of materials comprising treated timber, metal plates, chicken wire, bugle screws, decking and other materials have been transported by helicopter longline to the tracks. Tasmania's famous four seasons in one day weather has meant delays of up to a week have been common.
Timber Growers Direct and McKay Timber are busy milling, treating and kiln drying around 25,000 linear metres of treated timber.
Fungus underfoot – don't spread it
The burnt ground has exposed a not so welcome change, and it has brought new challenges. Unfortunately, Phytophthora cinnamomi (rootrot fungus) has been confirmed to be spreading along the Eastern Arthurs Range Traverse, Cracroft Plains and McKays Track
To protect the landscape and outstanding environmental values of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area - it is essential to limit any spread of this fungus.
Several tracks and sections of track will need to remain closed this summer - to reduce the risk of further spread within the Eastern and Western Arthurs Ranges and adjacent valleys.
These ongoing closures will allow the specialists and botanists to test and monitor the soil and map the fungus. The specialists, together with the track teams are determining the best routes for the realignment of tracks and camps.
A number of campsites ravaged by fire, are now surrounded by the hazard of dead trees and are no longer suitable sites. Considerations for alternative campsites include shelter from the prevailing winds, proximity to a water source, good drainage with a low chance of becoming boggy in heavy rain and pleasant landscape surroundings. Once environmental approvals and contracts are in place, crews will relocate from completed tracks to these locations to continue works.
Closed means closed!
Walkers please play your part by not entering closed tracks, they will be closed for biosecurity and safety reasons. You can minimise the spread of the fungus and help to ensure these areas are conserved for future generations.
A complete list of track closures can be found on the Alerts web page. Walkers found breaching these closures will be subject to heavy fines.
The Parks and Wildlife Service would like to thank the Tasmanian walking community for your patience. Our teams are literally on track - working hard, making good progress and we look forward to some of the tracks reopening in the coming months.