After waiting several months, the Do It For Batlow (DIFB) committee can now announce they’ve been granted another $25,000 to support the renewal of the Weemala Hill Walking and Riding Trails at Batlow Lookout.
An application for the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal’s (FRRR) Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) program was submitted in mid-2020 for the rejuvenation of Weemala Hill, and the committee was notified of their success later that year, but were sworn to secrecy until this week’s formal announcement.
Max Gordon-Hall, President of DIFB, said the news was “absolutely fabulous.”
“That project’s been going on for a while. It’s one of the longer, larger projects we’re doing and we now have around $35,000 committed to the project in total, which is fabulous,” he said.
The project is currently in the ‘discussion phase’ as DIFB meets with representatives from Snowy Valleys Council, Crown Lands and State Forests to coordinate land ownership issues.
The scope of the Weemala rejuvenation has also been expanded, with Bindi Vanzella and Bethany Kynaston coming on board to work on supporting native flora and fauna on the hill.
“They’re really trying to get the plants and the wildlife and flora and fauna up to scratch and to help it out,” said Mr Gordon-Hall.
“Bethany has applied for a grant specifically for plant recovery.”
The project hopes to achieve two goals: restore the ecosystem around the Batlow Lookout and provide an attractive rest stop for tourists.
“We’ve had a fair bit of interest up there, hopefully it gets a few people into town,” said Mr Gordon-Hall.
Before construction begins on the walking and biking trails, Mr Gordon-Hall said the committee is making sure to protect any natural or historic features.
“The idea at the moment that’s been floated is we go up there, save or pull out the native plants, rehome them for a period of time, do the trackwork and then replant the plants,” he said, adding that if new plants are nneeded, the committee will start by shopping with local Batlow nurseries before expanding outwards.
The other concern for the project is the potential that the Lookout has been used as a family memorial site for former members of the Women’s Land Army.
“We believe some Land Army ashes have been scattered off the lookout in the past, and we’re trying to support those people and find out if that’s happened,” he said.
“We obviously don’t want to put a bulldozer over there without knowing. We’re just trying to work out who to contact.”
Kevin Murrell, a member of the DIFB Weemala committee, is an experienced researcher and is currently reaching out to families who may be affected.
The grants for the Weemala project have expiry dates in 2022 and 2023. Mr Gordon-Hall said he’s hopeful that discussions with the council will reach completion in the coming weeks and work can begin somewhere around June this year.
The next DIFB meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, February 2, where the committee will present further details about their current and upcoming projects.