Our fantastic neighbours and volunteers help us ‘get off the ground’ at Walker Swamp

Now that the news about Walker Swamp is out in the public arena, I thought I’d share a really great little story about how a series of acts of generosity over the past couple of months have helped us made a start in setting the site up for its future use as a permanent conservation area. Such gestures of goodwill, which I feel privileged to see every day through what we do at NGT, keep me positive about what we are all capable of when we chip in and work together.

This is the short story of how (even before the project has really started!) we have ended up with a fantastic viewing tower at Walker Swamp.

With amazing donations of time, equipment and labour from everyone involved – not to mention the tower itself – we worked together to get the job done for very little financial cost. Best of all, the benefits will be lasting – as the tower will create a focal point for future visitors and also volunteer birdwatchers who will help us to monitor the site as the waterbirds return to a restored and re-invigorated Walker Swamp.

Six steps of generosity and teamwork:

Step 1: My old work colleague (and all-round nice bloke) Craig Billows drops me an email in February saying that he has come across a second hand (but very solidly built) viewing tower, at a residential development site on the Bellarine Peninsula, which might be available if we had a use for it. Because I said yes, he offered to put me in touch with the project manager to discuss our options…

The photo that Craig sent through of the tower - I was sure we could put it to good use!

The photo that Craig sent through of the tower – I was sure NGT could put it to good use!

Step 2: After a conversation with Project Manager Doug Vallance, Point Lonsdale Land Partners Pty Ltd agree to donate the viewing tower to Nature Glenelg Trust, if we take responsibility for our own insurance, dismantling and moving it. The only catch is that they need it gone ASAP.

Step 3: A quick call for help to Gordon Page (plus Paul and Terry from the Friends of the Great South West Walk) from Portland, who have been amazing volunteers for NGT over the years, is answered, and they join a local crane operator we engaged (after Toni at NGT helped do some quick hunting around for the best solution) to dismantle and load up the heaviest parts of the tower. It turns out the crane operator (Jason Smith from ACL Cranes) helped to put the tower up several tears ago and knew exactly how it was put together, so he went over and above by doing a heap of dismantling work before Gordon and crew arrived! He even called over an excavator driver on site, who also chipped in, to unearth the full base of the tower so we could avoid having to cut any steel and to make putting it up a lot easier.

Step 4: Jason delivers the tower in pieces to the site, but does manage to use his crane truck to stand the main frame up for us, and position it on the steel base.

Jason finishes unloading the tower parts at Walker Swamp

Jason finishes unloading the tower parts at Walker Swamp

Step 5: A couple of weeks later Greg and I meet Gordon on-site, who brings all the bolts and other bits and pieces we need to put the tower back together, and a short time later we are joined by our neighbours Todd Burger and Andy Macgugan, who generously offer to help us put this oversize jigsaw puzzle back together! With Todd’s tractor at our disposal and a telescopic forklift kindly provided by another neighbour (Simon Armytage), we got to work. Perhaps not entirely conventional, nor without its challenges, but it sure was a cost-effective and very satisfying day of teamwork!

Problem solving with Todd, Andy, Gordon and Greg - using all the equipment available!

Problem solving with all hands on deck (Todd, Andy, Gordon and Greg) – and making good use of all the equipment available!

Step 6: Tidy up and enjoy the view!

Gordon and Greg tidying up, with the finished product in place

Gordon and Greg tidying up, with the tower in place

Our new view at Walker Swamp - ready for restoration works to begin!

Our new view at Walker Swamp – ready for restoration works to begin, and for the waterbirds to return…

Mark Bachmann