Power of the people demonstrated by Gudgenby's bushies
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Power of the people demonstrated by Gudgenby's bushies

The power and passion of people is on display throughout the ACT, but particularly evident in Gudgenby Valley. The former pine plantation, located in Namadgi National Park, has been transformed over the past 20 years thanks to the Gudgenby Bush Regeneration Group.

The volunteer group was established in 1998 with the ambitious goal of rehabilitating 380 hectares of introduced pine in the heart of the Gudgenby Valley.

Sonja Lenz, Martin Chalk and Kevin McCue are part of the Gudgenby Bushies volunteers group, pictured with Brett McNamara, ACT Parks and Conservation manager Namadgi National Park.

Sonja Lenz, Martin Chalk and Kevin McCue are part of the Gudgenby Bushies volunteers group, pictured with Brett McNamara, ACT Parks and Conservation manager Namadgi National Park.

Today, after countless hours of continuing hard work, the former Boboyan Pines is home to a forest of native eucalyptus trees, banksia, and acacias.

Volunteer Kevin McCue became a Gudgenby bushie in 2002, spending one day a month picking pine wildings from the ground. A single day could net 1000 wildings per volunteer, he said. The next task was to scour the surrounding forest and remove larger trees with saws.

Later, volunteers set their sights on removing invasive weeds, sowing native seeds, building enclosures to protect young plants from grazing animals and tearing down barbed wire fences, Mr McCue said.

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It was hard work, but Mr McCue said he and his wife had enjoyed improvements to their mental and physical health and built lasting friendships with Parks and Conservation rangers and fellow bushies.

"I would recommend anybody of all ages to go out there," Mr McCue said.

"To go out there and be surrounded by these beautiful mountains which from summer to winter can change so dramatically to being covered in snow to just being dark and brooding depending on the weather, it just lifts your spirits."

ACT Parks and Conservation manager Brett McNamara has seen the group's work develop and flourish since starting as a young ranger. There have been highs and lows. When the 2003 bushfires razed the surrounding area - and burnt his house down - the pines of Gudgenby Valley remained untouched, Mr McNamara remembered.

"It was remarkable to see everything around the plantation smouldering, and a pine plantation still in the valley," Mr McNamara said.

"We then had to turn our attention to pulling out those trees and rehabilitating the area.

"It's all about patience and persistence, that's what these programs are all about."

One of the original Gudgenby bushies, the late Eleanor Stodart, pictured sowing seed in a section of felled and burnt pine forest.

One of the original Gudgenby bushies, the late Eleanor Stodart, pictured sowing seed in a section of felled and burnt pine forest.Credit:Syd Comfort

The rehabilitation techniques used at Gudgenby informed the later rehabilitation of the Lower Cotter Catchment. Mr McNamara made special mention of former group president Eleanor Stodart, who is remembered in a regeneration grove at Gudgenby.

ACT Environment Minister Mick Gentleman paid tribute to the Gudgenby bushies, who on Saturday celebrated two decades of hard work at a reunion.

"Work continues in the Gudgenby Valley to this day, and visitors can experience the transformation achieved by the Bushies first hand with interpretive signs and a walking trail through the valley," Mr Gentleman said.

Emily Baker is a reporter for the Sunday Canberra Times. She previously reported on education for The Canberra Times.