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Opening of snaring hut a historic moment


Mountain Huts Preservation Society in partnership with Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service officially opened the reconstructed Basil Steers Hut #1 on the February Plains on Saturday 26th March.

The day was a glorious autumn one, with bright blue skies, warm sunshine and just perfect conditions for the one hour walk up to the site. The occasion was the culmination of a project that saw the Mountain Huts Preservation Society volunteers working for 20 months on the rebuilding of the hut, which had been damaged severely by fire in the mid ‘70s and fallen in complete disrepair over the following years. Only a couple of part walls were still standing among the debris of timber and tin that remained when the working bees started in January 2009.

A crowd of more than 100 dedicated and keen walkers gathered for the official opening, including young and old and people from all walks of life; Steers family members, walking club members, farmers, locals, society volunteers and parks staff. The opening was a celebration of the historic significance of the hut in the Tasmanian landscape and as a testament to by-gone traditions in the high country. But it was also much more.

Roger Nutting, society president, said during his opening speech that the significance of the hut can’t be underestimated, as there used to be hundreds of these ‘skin sheds’ spread over the Tasmanian bush in years gone by but only half a dozen or so remain, and the Basil Steers hut is one of them.

Another important aspect of this project was the partnership agreement signed with Parks and Wildlife Service which allowed for the reconstruction work to take place, a great example of parks and the community working together, Mr Nutting said. He added that a new path was created by the agreement, which made a huge difference to the work of the society, and was a positive and amazing journey for all concerned. The sentiments were also echoed by the parks staff who spoke at the opening Northern Region manager Chris Colley and Parks and Reserves manager Great Western Tiers and Mersey, Chris Emms.

The opening was made very special by the attendance of three of Basil Steers’s four children, Christine Donohue, Anne Crowden and Philip Steers, who participated in the proceedings.

 Philip addressed those attending and shared some of his recollections and anecdotes of times spent with his father in the February Plains.  He remembered his first visit to the plains and the site of the hut along with his brother Wayne, friend (and Basil’s employer at the time) Ken Jacobs and ‘dad’. The trip was for the purpose of building the hut, which was done over the course of a weekend. Philip recounted the cold, windy and wet conditions they’d encountered; two or three feet of snow and cold winds blowing in from the South;  and pointed to the contrast with the beautiful weather on the day. He reminisced about the conditions being particularly rough and dangerous to spend the winter on, but not for his father, who braved them time and again over many winters. He ended by highlighting how many great memories of being there he held and how the opening day would be part of them now.

Anne also spoke to the visitors on behalf of the whole family, and her speech was touched by very personal and precious details. She thanked everyone; the Mountain Huts Preservation Society and Parks and Wildlife Service for the work undertaken and for including the family in the opening, and all those present for sharing such an important moment with them. She pointed out how overwhelming and special it was that the hut had been rebuilt in her father’s memory, and above all how unbelievable it would all had been for him had he been around to see it happen. He was a kind and gentle man with a big heart, she said, the mountain was his second home, he loved it and knew it like the back of his hand.

Christine joined her brother and sister to cut a symbolic ribbon at the end of the talks to mark the official opening and the gathering broke into applause to acknowledge the significance of the moment.

Information on membership and activities of Mountain Huts Preservation Society can be found at www.mountainhuts.com.au

Opening of snaring hut a historic moment

Basil Steers in the hut with skins hung up to dry (Photo courtesy of Steers family.)

Opening of snaring hut a historic moment

Portrait of Basil Steers (Photo courtesy of Steers family.)

Opening of snaring hut a historic moment

Basil Steers hut #1 in ruins (Photo courtesy Margaret Howe.)

Opening of snaring hut a historic moment

Mountain Huts Preservation Society working bee February 2010 (Photo courtesy Margaret Howe.)

Opening of snaring hut a historic moment

The hut fully restored in September 2010 (Photo courtesy of Ian Hayes.)

Opening of snaring hut a historic moment

Participants at the official opening gathered around the hut for lunch before the proceedings

Opening of snaring hut a historic moment

Small waterway on the way up to the February Plains, a captivating landscape

Opening of snaring hut a historic moment

Standing L to R: Philip Steers, Roger Nutting (MHPS), Chris Emms (PWS), Brendan Kearns (PWS), Ian Hayes (MHPS), Chris Colley (PWS), Rob Buck (PWS), front row: Christine Steers, Anne Steers, Stella Rodriguez (PWS)