Tag Archives: Yarra Riverkeeper Association

Restoring our riverbank

AS VALERIE POLLEY discussed in April’s Warrandyte Diary, [Are we at risk of loving the riverbank to death?] the bank of the Yarra River through Warrandyte is in a parlous state.
As one of Warrandyte’s most significant environmental assets and a community treasure, the Main Yarra Trail requires immediate attention to repair structural damage and revive surrounding native plants.
Heavy rainfall has taken a toll on the trail, resulting in significant erosion and the premature loss of several older trees.
But it is not just the weather impacting our beloved river walk.
The impact from events such as the Festival, Market, Park Run, Pottery Expo, and increased foot traffic during the pandemic has seen erosion and treefall, rubbish, and dog waste, creating stress on the environment around the river.
The flooding events that have been happening with monotonous regularity have only exacerbated this impact.
So, from July, Manningham Council says it will begin restoration works.
Following the floods, to mitigate further damage, temporary measures were implemented by Council, allowing the trail to remain accessible to the community.
However, a council statement said the focus has shifted to long-term restoration efforts to ensure the trail’s sustained functionality and environmental value.
Manningham Mayor, Cr Deirdre Diamante, said, “The Manningham Green Wedge Infrastructure Plan has been considered in the design and approach to the restoration to ensure the works are sustainable and sympathetic to the semi-rural character of the area.”
She said that in collaboration with an expert contractor, Manningham Council is dedicated to restoring the Main Yarra Trail to its full potential for the community’s enjoyment for years to come.

Environmental outcomes

Yarra Riverkeeper Charlotte Sterrett told the Diary the Riverkeeper Association had not been consulted about these works but said any works along the Yarra Trail should not only improve the amenity of the area but lead to a net gain for the river and her parklands.
“This means that the Yarra, Birrarung should benefit ecologically from any works undertaken – it can’t be only about reducing negative impacts from human and dog traffic.”
She said exposed roots, eroded soil, and damage to the vegetation along the Yarra, Birrarung is evidence that we need to better balance people’s needs with the needs of the river.
“Any works should lead to better outcomes for the river and her critters.
“It’s time to recognise that she has rights too.”

Council’s plan

Cr Diamante said restoration activities would include levelling the trail rock bed, adding rocks, weed removal, and additional planting along most of the trail.
She said some sections might require more extensive structural work, such as cement stabilisation underneath the trail and the construction of a retaining wall to prevent further erosion near Police Street.
Enhancements are also planned for the trail at the carpark on the public toilet side of Warrandyte Bridge.
Upgrades to the drainage infrastructure will mitigate stormwater flooding, while the installation of a new concrete shared path will improve accessibility for wheelchairs, cyclists, prams, and pedestrians around the Warrandyte Bridge car park.
The trail restoration works will begin in July 2023, with an anticipated completion date toward the end of this year.
While small sections of the trail will be temporarily closed during construction, detour signage will be prominently displayed to ensure minimal disruption and to allow the community to continue enjoying the trail.

Summary of works along the Main Yarra Trail

All sections: Weeding invasive species and planting natives to encourage new growth.
Path to be refreshed with new toppings and graded to support better drainage.
Section 1 – Everard Drive to Police Street: This section of the trail will be levelled out with rock and weeded, with planting to encourage new growth.
Stiggant Street Carpark and Police Street Carpark will also get minor drainage upgrades, including new drainage pits.
Section 2 Police Street to 81 Yarra Street: This section of the trail has experienced severe erosion.
Council may install a retaining wall at this location to prevent further erosion, ensuring the path can be used in the future.
Section 3 – 83 to 119 Yarra Street: This section of the trail will be stabilised with a cement base and covered with rock to visually blend into the rest of the trail.
The cement stabilisation will prevent severe erosion at this section of the trail to ensure it is always usable.
Section 4: – “The Beach” adjacent to 141 Yarra Street and Webb Street Carpark: The lower path will not be touched.
The upper path will be stabilised.
Section 5 – 141 to 177 Yarra Street: This section of the trail will be levelled out with rock and weeded, with planting to encourage new growth.
Council will also undertake extensive weeding and planting in the Rainwater Garden opposite 177 Yarra Street so the plants in the garden do a more effective job of cleaning incoming stormwater and reducing unnecessary pollution of the waterways.
Section 6 – 183 Yarra Street to the bridge: This section of the trail will be stabilised with a cement base and covered with rock to visually blend into the rest of the trail.
The cement stabilisation will prevent severe erosion at this section of the trail and reduce water ponding in the area.
Section 7 – The carpark on the public toilet side of the bridge: Council will be doing a range of works at this location, including:
Upgrading the drains in the carpark to reduce stormwater flooding in the area.
Removing the gate and adding bollards for better pedestrian access.
Fixing any damaged structures, including the memorial.
Stabilising the trail with a cement base covered with rock to visually blend into the rest of the trail.
Replacing the existing asphalt path with a new concrete shared path, enhancing accessibility for wheelchairs, cyclists, and pedestrians between the carpark and the Main Yarra Trail.
The design of the shared path will be sympathetic to the surrounding environment.
Section 8 – 284 Yarra Street to Tills Drive: Erosion in this section has reached an unacceptable level.
To address this issue, a boardwalk will be installed beneath the oak tree, and in certain areas, the width of the trail path will be expanded from 1.5 to 2+ metres.
These improvements will enable easier access for users travelling to and from Tills Drive, the Stonehouse, and onward to other parts of Warrandyte State Park.
This will provide a better trail connection to and from Warrandyte State Park.
River health
Cr Diamante said that the trail is at great risk of long-term damage due to the heavy and constant rainfall last year.
“We’re undertaking these essential maintenance works now to preserve the trailÕs character and ensure it can continue to be used by future generations.
“Not doing so would pose a significant risk to the long-term viability of the trail,Ó Cr Diamante said.
Ms Sterrett said we all need to play our part in protecting the Yarra, Birrarung and her parklands, “including councils who have signed up to the Yarra Strategic Plan (Burndap Birrarung burndap umarkoo).
“The Yarra, Birrarung is a living entity and deserves to be restored to full health.
“Any works along the river should contribute to her health.
“For too long, we have taken nature for granted and seen her as a resource for personal pleasure and enjoyment.”
She said the Riverkeeper Association expects that the works undertaken by Manningham Council benefit the river “and not just visitors and their dogs”.
“For what is good for the Yarra is good for all,” Ms Sterrett said.
For further details visit manningham.vic.gov.au/news/main-yarra-trail-restoration.

A river runs through it

RIVERS are an essential asset for all forms of life.
Humans use them for drinking water and food, business and recreation, and cultural heritage.
The water and the surrounding land are important ecosystems for indigenous plants and wildlife.
Starting near Mount Baw Baw and finishing in Port Phillip Bay, with a total length of 242 kilometres, the Yarra River touches the lives of people, plants and animals through the Yarra Ranges, the Yarra Valley and metropolitan Melbourne.
But 242 kilometres is a long way, and the river we see at Docklands can often feel a long way from the river we see at Warrandyte or Warburton.
To bring awareness and context to the lifeblood of Melbourne, Yarra Riverkeeper Association Chief Executive Officer and accomplished ultramarathon runner Karin Traeger recently ran “from source to mouth”.
Covering 280 kilometres over six days, she has explored the changing landscape of the Yarra river as it meanders from its source to the middle of Melbourne.
That journey, naturally, took Karin through Warrandyte and the Diary, met up with Karin and her entourage to talk about her adventure, which began in the Yarra Ranges beyond Reefton.

Photo: Hilary McAllister

“It’s a pretty, pristine area, really beautiful — lots of forests; pretty remote and isolated, but it’s a pretty nice place, you get to see lyre birds, lots of bush.”

Running 73km with friends from the source to the Reefton hotel, along access tracks and over Mount Horsfall, they took in views of the catchment.

“It was really nice to see the upper catchment, we can see how pristine it is, and it really puts into perspective the change of the river between the origin to what you see in the city.
“It’s such a nice place; it’s very green and lush and has lots of birds, and once you get to the city — it just changes a lot.”

From the Upper Yarra reservoir, Karin made her way down to Warburton, then followed the ranges to Wonga Park and Warrandyte via Healesville, but said that despite some challenging road sections — such as along the Melba Highway — it was interesting to watch the landscape around the river change.
The obvious question at this point is why?

“I’ve been running ultra-distances for the last six years, and I thought, how can I combine my passion for the environment — the river — and my passion for running?
“So, I thought it would be cool to join the whole river in just one run and show people that the same river in Warburton, or Warrandyte, is the same river that is going into the city — because a lot of people don’t seem to be able to connect the two together.
“I thought it would be a good, unique project that lots of people can connect with and use running as a way to advocate for a healthy river.”

The Diary asked Karin what had been her most disappointing and most amazing experience on her journey.

“We found some litter in really like remote places, and we couldn’t understand why people would do that, go out there and dump stuff.
“Why would you go out into the bush to enjoy it and then do that — leaving behind empty cans of beer or broken glass and stuff — it just doesn’t make any sense.
“That was a bit upsetting because it’s so hard to get the stuff out of there.
“We also got an idea of how invasive species affect the environment too; we saw lots of blackberry bushes, stuff like that.”

While some humans are causing environmental damage through littering, Karin said she has also seen a lot of the good that people are doing through their local community or “friends of” groups, volunteering to help restore and maintain the riverbanks and riverine landscape of the Yarra river and the creeks that feed it.
But volunteering doesn’t just mean getting your hands dirty; there may be other ways you can support a local environmental group.

“Some groups might even need help, like, setting up an Instagram page, or you can donate money or supplies and equipment; it doesn’t need to be big.
“Or if you see some rubbish, see if you can pick it up — even carrying one piece of rubbish out of the bush can make a big difference.”

Our lives have developed around the Yarra river, and as Karin has witnessed, the river and its surrounding environment change extensively from a little stream at the source to the vast mouth below the Westgate Bridge.
But it is all the same river, and to advocate for it, we need to be aware of it and actively engage in its protection.
Like Karin says, you don’t need to run an ultramarathon to understand and protect the river; you just need to be aware that whether you are in the heart of the city, at a swimming hole, or deep in the forests of the Yarra Ranges, it’s all the same river, and our impact in the environment affects it all.

Winter Solstice time to celebrate our river

THE WINTER Solstice is often a time of curling up in front of a fire with a good book, or for some, it might be dancing naked in the forest.
For the Birrarung/Yarra Riverkeeper, Charlotte Sterrett, what better thing to do than take a swim in the Birrarung?
On a crisp winter’s day, Charlotte and a hardy crew, including the ABC’s Sammy J, took to her favourite swimming hole to celebrate the solstice and World Bathing Day.
She spoke to the Diary before taking a dip.“In the Southern Hemisphere, we get the cold end of the stick, but we are here to celebrate all that is good
and wonderful about the Birrarung/Yarra River.
“We are in North Warrandyte at my favourite swimming hole where I come with my family and friends in the summer and sometimes in the winter when my daughter wants to come and swim,” she said.
Charlotte said the good news is that the Riverkeepers Association was setting a target to have a swimmable Birarrung by 2030.
“We want to have a swimmable river from source to sea.
“At the moment, there are only certain parts of the river that you can swim in, Warrandyte being one of them.
She said swimming in Warrandyte after heavy rain is not recommended because of the pollution that enters the river, and when you get further downstream, the water quality gets worse and worse.
“In fact, when you get past Dights Falls, you are not allowed to swim, so we would like to see many changes to help the river become protected, healthy and loved so that everybody can swim in the river by 2030 — we think is achievable.”
She said the EPA measure the levels of E. coli, which is one of the indicators they use, so when those levels are too high, you are not allowed to swim — or they suggest that you don’t.
But other pollutants are coming into the river, polystyrene particularly further down stream, chemical pollution, a lot of sediment runoff,
fertilisers, and agricultural waste that end up in the river.
But she said there are plans to change all that.
“There is research being done, we have some of those people here today from Regen Melbourne and from the Yarra Yabbies who are here to have a swim here at this end of town so they can see what that is like, and then we can replicate that downstream with actual swimming pools — five of them.
“In Warrandyte, we are very lucky, in summer the river is a bit lower, and there are some beautiful rocks, and when you are sitting in the middle of that river, it is the best place on earth.
“We can swim here year-round, and we want that for everyone.”
She said the solstice swim was a huge success.
“We had so many people, and everyone loved it — the look on people’s faces was pure joy, but pure cold terror.”
Sammy J said all that was on his mind when he got the feeling back in the bottom half of his body was to perhaps
have a pie at the Warrandyte Bakery.