From Weeds to Wetland: Bushcare Success at Popes Glen

It’s taken more than a decade of vision, hard work and determination, but Blackheath’s Popes Glen is being transformed from a weedy wasteland into a thriving wetland filled with native plants and animals, thanks to an ambitious bush restoration project involving Popes Glen Bushcare Group, Council and the NSW Environmental Trust.

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It takes a village… members of Popes Glen Bushcare Group, BMCC Councillors, and staff from Council and the NSW Environment Trust celebrate the renewal of Popes Glen, Blackheath.

In 2012, the group successfully secured a $233,000 grant from the NSW Environmental Trust. Since then, the pace of progress at the site has increased dramatically.

A team of contractors is now carrying out highly sensitive and skilled work to remove the remaining willows, stabilise the edges of the silt flat using structures built from recycled materials, and plant thousands of plants to protect the silt from future erosion.

Over the last 12 years, Popes Glen Bushcare Group and Council, supported by the local Environment Levy, have removed a forest of willows and revegetated an area the size of half a football field with 7,000 local wetland plants at the headwaters of Popes Glen Creek.

The group’s monitoring program shows that the restored wetland is dramatically improving water quality in Pope’s Glen Creek, with faecal coliform counts reduced by up to 85%.

The new wetland is also preventing a large amount of pollutants from escaping into the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, only 2km downstream. Twenty cubic metres of sediment have already been removed from the stream since 2012.

Popes Glen Bushcare volunteers showcased the success of the project on 28 October, when Deputy Mayor, Cr Chris Van der Kley, and Councillors Anton Von Schulenburg and Don McGregor, together with Council’s General Manager and NSW Environmental Trust staff, toured the site.

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Successful partnership: (from left to right) Stephen Hardy, NSW Environmental Trust, BMCC Councillors Anton Von Schulenburg, Don McGregor and Chris Van der Kley with Alan Lane, Coordinator, Popes Glen Bushcare Group.

Mayor, Cr Mark Greenhill, congratulated the Popes Glen Bushcare Group for their success.
“The volunteers from Popes Glen Bushcare Group have 20 years of environmental success behind them. It is a credit to the skill and dedication of these volunteers that they can manage such a large-scale and complex environmental restoration project.

This important work benefits us all; from protecting the places we love to walk and play in, to preserving local biodiversity and our World Heritage Area, and enhancing local tourism – which relies heavily on a clean, green environment,” said the Mayor.

‘We were gratified to be awarded this significant grant,’ says Alan Lane, Coordinator of the Popes Glen Bushcare Group. ‘It acknowledged our hard work to date and built upon important gains funded by Council’s Environment Levy. We’ve almost finished converting the willow forest and the huge silt flat into a permanent wetland. Not only is water quality improving, but several species of frogs have returned and small birds are abundant. Maybe one day we’ll see Giant Dragonflies!’

‘Willows are beautiful trees,’ comments Paul Vale, Deputy Coordinator, Popes Glen Bushcare Group. ‘Unfortunately they are also extremely invasive weeds that choke streams and native vegetation, and destroy aquatic ecosystems. That was happening to Popes Glen Creek and urgent action was needed.’

Back in 2002, the Popes Glen Bushcare Group and Council took on the challenge of restoring Popes Glen. The ongoing and significant achievements of the group were crucial in securing the NSW Environmental Trust grant.

Visit the Popes Glen Bushcare site for more information.