The National Park Experience: Personal reflection on why our parks must be valued

AUTHORS: JACKIE ROSE’MEYER, VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL PARKS ASSOCIATION OF QUEENSLAND (NPAQ)

PHOTOGRAPHY: JACKIE ROSE’MEYER

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Since moving to Queensland six years ago our family has made countless holidays and day trips to Queensland’s national parks. There are so many choices.

Our most frequent and favourite day trip though has been to a reserve, not a national park. Located on the Sunshine Coast, Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve is a short one hour and 10-minute drive from Brisbane. A few times a year the five of us will set off to Mary Cairncross followed by lunch in Montville or Maleny.

The reserve comprises 55 hectares of subtropical rainforest overlooking the Glass House Mountains. It has a huge range of plants and animals that make their home in this reserve. The kids always take great delight in spotting the red legged pademelon, ‘butterflies’ (the pink underwing moth) and on occasion we have seen snakes, including the red bellied black snake.

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The bird population is diverse. We find that we see and hear more bird life when we visit the reserve early in the day. We are often lucky to see the eastern yellow robin on the ground, and it always makes the kids smile when they hear the loud whip of the eastern whipbird.

The rainforest tracks are perfect walks for introducing children to bushwalking. There are 2 km of walking tracks which are very manageable, with a large proportion of this being wheelchair and stroller accessible. The track is shaded by the tree canopy and the walks are still very enjoyable in the rain. Two of our three children have been fascinated by the leaches brought out in the rain, not so much the third who was the source of their food.

At the edge of the forest is an Education Centre, the Rainforest Discovery Centre, and a public recreation area with BBQ’s and a playground. The Rainforest Discovery Centre is very interactive and keeps the family entertained whenever we return. It includes habitat rooms, microscopes and all kinds of information.

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The area is not protected as a national park, it is a reserve. The land was donated to the Sunshine Coast Council in 1941 with the aim of preserving the rainforest. The reserve is managed by the Sunshine Coast Council with the support of a number of very helpful and informative local volunteers.

One of the many things I like about visiting Mary Cairncross Reserve is the gold coin donation system to support conservation work at the reserve. I have often wondered how our national parks could introduce something similar to help contribute to the protection of, and education about, our national parks.

As a family the time we spend together in nature are some of the best quality times we have – no urgency or distractions; so much to see and share together; and beauty and peacefulness you just don’t get anywhere else.