Been on a bushwalk lately? Want to explore some local nature treasures? Why not join our City Bush Guides as they lead a guided walk through some of our wonderful bushland.
Despite the fact that the Perth metropolitan area has a greater biodiversity than almost any other city in the world, the general public has little or no awareness of this fact.
The capacity of Friends groups to lead guided walks is limited. Because of inadequate management, many groups feel compelled to focus their attention on dealing with threatening processes such as the incursion of weeds; fragmentation created by pathways made by people and domestic animals; dumping of rubbish and the after effects of too frequent fires. Many such groups have no experience in guiding and in several Bush Forever sites no one has ever led a bush walk.
The City Bush Guides program set out to train 40-50 volunteer bushland guides who would be confident to lead nature walks from September 2007. In addition, UBC agreed to produce a city bush guide’s manual as a tool for others interested in becoming volunteer guides.
The challenge was to turn these participants into competent and confident guides in seven weeks. Adopting an experiential learning model was a key to making the program work. It was an ambitious objective to imagine that forty-four participants with little knowledge of urban bushland and seven weeks training would be able to independently lead walks in their local bushland.
Participants enjoyed valuable networking and secured books and resources during morning tea breaks. Trainees were asked to choose a bushland site where they wished to become regular guides. For 'homework' they gathered information about their chosen site. Benefits for the bush come from an increased capacity for Friends groups to conduct guided walks and thus introduce local community folk to their bushland. Familiarity brings enjoyment, appreciation and involvement. Remarkably few people visit their local bushland and hence do not connect with nature.
As well as environmental and social components of the course, there was a need to inform participants of the legalities of working in bushland, the safety aspects of guiding walks, the protocol involved in informing local council and also bushland groups who might already be involved in the area or the landowners in the case of school bushland. New guides were encouraged to contact those already involved and seek their support. In most instances the involvement of guides was welcome but there were also situations where the authority and/or the local bushland group were suspicious of this new involvement in ‘their’ patch.
Where an authority was actively involved in bushland preservation and promotion the presence of new guides was viewed as a welcome addition. However in some cases, a protocol arrangement was required before guides could operate. This was particularly so in the case of Bold Park, which is administered by the Botanical Gardens and Parks Authority (BGPA).
The success of this 2007 program was followed by two similarly successful programs in 2009, with 21 participants, and 2010 with 31 participants. There remains significant community interest for this initiative and funding may be sought for future years.
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