recovery and expansion:
1990 and beyond
Following the success of its regenerative efforts, the FOOPs group sought to further monitor and improve the biodiversity of Organ Pipes National Park. In response to a 1988 park fauna survey by two biologists, ten bat roost boxes were installed in 1992. Bats first moved into these boxes two years later. The bat colony increased from 35 to over 150 insectivorous bats today. Ours is the longest-running monitoring project in Australia, and has been used as a model for similar projects elsewhere. In 2001, the program gave rise to a nationwide Bat Roost Box Network for others interested in native bat conservation. Find out more about our current Bat Box Program and how you can get involved here.
Frog surveys were also conducted by FOOPs volunteers Robert Irvine and Mark Scida to establish a list of seven species within the park, including the rare growling grass frog. Fungi surveys were conducted within the park as part of the Fungimap project conducted by the state Herbarium, resulting in a growing list of species gradually being recorded.
At this time, FOOPs began to focus on lobbying to expand the park as a way to preserve more of the Keilor Plains ecosystem. In 1991, Melbourne Water undertook the Upper Maribyrnong Concept Plan: a major study that proposed forming a continuous linear park by joining the Organ Pipes National Park with Brimbank Park, located ten kilometres downstream. Since then, a major restoration effort in neighbouring Sydenham Park has been undertaken to form a wildlife corridor along Jackson’s Creek, allowing plants and animals to migrate along the waterway.
The conservation of areas outside the park also became a focal point of the FOOPs group. In 1991, Ranger Matt LeDuc arranged with the City of Keilor to install exclusion fences around a selection of old native Cypress pine trees on the escarpment of neighbouring Sydenham Park. FOOPs has taken responsibility for maintaining these enclosures since then, and has organised working bees to remove invasive weeds and monitor seedlings. In 1992, FOOPs volunteer Carl Rayner organised grant funding and permission to fence four high-quality grassland patches along the Sunbury rail line. FOOPs continues to visit these areas annually to conduct maintenance weeding and litter collection. Lobbying for the Organ Pipe National Park’s expansion and the protection of nearby areas of the Keilor Plains continues to be a major focus for the FOOPs group today.
In recognition of their commitment to the park, three members of FOOPS have received the Best Friend Award from the Victorian National Parks Association Friends Network committee: Don Marsh in 1991, Barry Kemp in 1993, and Carl Rayner in 1998. In 2020, Carl Rayner also achieved national recognition when he was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for his ongoing work in conservation.
Over the years, FOOPs has mapped numerous sites around the park where Aboriginal and European artefacts have been found, including Aboriginal stone tools and European ceramics and glass. Surveys of the park by the Wurundjeri traditional custodians indicate that the land is rich in Aboriginal artefacts. Today, consultation with the Wurundjeri Council is integral to how we interact with the landscape. We are grateful to the Council for their generous sharing of knowledge about the land and its history.
In 2022, the Organ Pipes celebrates fifty years of having National Park status, and FOOPs celebrates its fiftieth anniversary as a volunteer group. As the oldest Friends group in Australia, we have spent decades restoring the park’s natural ecosystem to help preserve a part of Victoria’s unique Western Plains ecosystem. We are proud of the remarkable conservation achievements we’ve accomplished at the Organ Pipes over the years, and look forward to many more milestones in the future.