Hard yakka: Clearing the Dorrigo brush was back-breaking work for the early selectors. The establishment of the Dorrigo Reserves, now National Park, helped preserve some of the original landscape. This is the first in a short series on the early days of the Dorrigo National Park
The Dorrigo National Park is rightly seen as one of the small jewels in New England’s crown. I wonder how many know its story or indeed that of the New England National Park, the third oldest in NSW.
According to Howard directed Stanley’s History of the Dorrigo National Park, our story begins on 29 March 1900 when Edward Ebsworth, the District Surveyor at Grafton, directed surveyor H A Evans to determine the position of two waterfalls (now the Sherrard and Newell Falls) near the road.
The Dorrigo Plateau was then being cleared and developed for settlement, creating the cultural landscape we know today. Evans was to “measure an area surrounding each waterfall sufficient to protect it with a view to its reservation from sale.”
Evans reported from his camp on 31 August 1900. He recommended reservation of two areas totaling around 8.1 hectares.
This would give ample room for “sight seers and others to ramble about on these areas and enjoy the scenery of the waterfalls, the pretty pieces of brush and bush and the landscape and seascape generally”.
Ebsworth successfully recommended to his Minister that Evan’s proposal be approved, On 19 February 1901, the Government Gazette carried a notice under Section 101 of the Crowns Land Act 1884 reserving the two areas for Public Recreation and the preservation of native flora.
The two areas might have been of sufficient size to allow visitors to ramble (or scramble!) around, but did little for the protection of native flora. However, in July 1917, a much larger area of 1,659 hectares on the Dorrigo Mountain was explicitly reserved for the preservation of native flora.
I haven’t properly researched the general history of either public spaces or national parks. However, a few general points are worth noting because they set a context for our story.
The idea of reservation of land for parks or other public purposes such as commons was well established. The idea that ordinary citizens should have access for recreation, enjoyment and access to nature to the equivalent of the parks established and enjoyed by aristocrats became well established during the 19th century.
In Sydney, both the Royal National Park (1879) and Ku-ring-gai Chase (1894) were explicitly intended for public recreation.
The idea of preservation of flora and fauna had also become well established, if sometimes in the breach.
We can see all these elements in the initial establishment of the Dorrigo Reserves. However, the administrative and funding arrangements for the Reserves left much to be desired,
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 22 November 2019. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here 2017, here 2018, here 2019