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Living Lightly column

Restoring the river

By Anne Stelling, Parklands Albury Wodonga

“River restoration” sounds like something beyond the power of ordinary people – something requiring engineers, heavy machinery and lots of money.

But here in Albury Wodonga, a long-term community vision for restoration and reconnection of our Murray River corridor is quietly achieving just that, with volunteers, cooperation and community support.

The vision is of close to 60km of healthy river frontage in a restored natural landscape. The restoration will provide connectivity all the way from the Wagirra Trail in Albury to Lake Hume.

This will enable people to reconnect with nature and country, providing for walking and cycling along the corridor as well as access to the river for picnicking, kayaking and fishing. Most importantly, the restored corridor will provide connected habitat for local ecological communities.

This section of the Murray river corridor suffered severely from historic clearing. The native vegetation so perfectly suited to providing ecosystem services to the river, like preventing erosion and providing habitat for native creatures, was removed.

Clearing opened the way for erosion and invasion by non-native plants, undoing those ecosystems and reducing native habitat to a thin ribbon of red gums surviving on the riverbanks. Connectivity was broken.

Past efforts to halt the deterioration have arrested severe erosion. Achieving the vision is now largely a task of removing invasive plants, allowing natural regeneration and replanting native plants. Fencing is also needed to protect the river corridor from livestock and reconnect public access.

Parklands Albury Wodonga is leading the project; negotiating access, coordinating community partnerships and supporting volunteers in the restoration, revegetation and fencing required to make the vision a reality.

Most of the frontages where Parklands is Committee of Management have already been fenced and revegetated through the efforts of local volunteers from all walks of life. Community partnerships have provided essential in-kind support and funding. In the past month, Parklands welcomed an injection of $10,000 from the Rotary Club of Albury Foundation grants program.

Parklands believe this is ambitious project is a world first; a long-distance river nature trail created largely through community and business partnerships. That the project is forging ahead in this time of uncertainty shows that, with the community on board, anything is possible.

If you would like to get involved with any aspect of this exciting project, please email info@parklands-alburywodonga.org.au