After 20 months of closure (beginning in March 2021) the Alligator Creek day visitor area in the Mt Elliott section of the Bowling Green Bay National Park is now OPEN. I can hear the cheers echoing as I type!! The intention was never to keep this much-loved local resource closed for so long but while some problems might have been foreseen, many were not. Yes, it caused plenty of community angst but I’d like to think we can put that behind us now and enjoy our restored access.
I felt privileged to be able to attend the official opening by Minister Meaghan Scanlon on Tuesday 15th, introduced by Eddie Smallwood of the Gudjuda Reference Group Aboriginal Corporation. A smoking ceremony and some evocative dancing by members of the Bindal community reinforced our awareness of the true ownership of this land and its ancient cultural history and connections.
If at times, over those long months, I worried that the area might become overly manicured to more closely resemble a city park rather than the natural bush of a National Park, those fears were considerably allayed. Where there has been compromise (wide, hard-surface pathways and lookouts) this has been with the positive aim of improving the ease and safety of access to the creek, its beach and viewing points, for those with disabilities.
I liked the stone seating and was impressed by the considerable revegetation work which is being done in the “top” area, before the path descends to the creek, and which will enhance and support the creekside vegetation. And for families with young children there is still a smaller grassed area where kids can run around safely away from either cars or saplings. Landscaping with boulders around the beach area should help to reduce erosion from the hundreds of pairs of feet that run in and out of the water and over the rocks during peak visitor periods.
On a practical note, there are several well-built barbecues, a couple of “shelter sheds” and other picnic tables (high and low) all well-spaced under the trees.There is also a phone for emergency use and a completely new and enlarged amenities block at the eastern end of the carpark replacing the more central one. (There has not been a functioning toilet near the swimming area for some time. Time will tell if this becomes a problem!)
The plans to create a new camping area are still in progress. Member for Mundingburra, Les Walker, is very invested in this and as I left he joined a huddle of QPWS staff and others – including a landscape architect – who were in deep discussion about sites and other practicalities.
The above comments are entirely based on my own response to the upgrade work; those visiting with the group this Sunday (20th) – or at any later time – will be able to form their own opinions. The great thing is we can once more freely visit our very special “local” Park. But also, as a group, we should not shirk our responsibility to monitor its use (or misuse) and how it is managed to ensure wildlife and habitats are protected alongside human recreation.
WQ Townsville Branch will be visiting the Mt Elliott section of this National Park on Sunday 20 November. Non-members welcome – read this post for details.
Copyright of all photos in this post resides with the photographer (Liz Downes) Please contact us if you wish permission to use.