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Hut wardens celebrate 10 years of caring for wilderness walkers


Overland Track walkers will once again find welcoming advice and support on their first overnight stop at Waterfall Valley with start of the Overland Track Hut Warden program this week.

The program, a partnership between the Parks and Wildlife Service and WILDCARE Inc, this year celebrates its 10th year of caring for walkers. The program runs until after Easter each year.

Waterfall Valley is the first overnight destination for walkers undertaking the Overland Track, and many walkers find the advice and assistance provided by the volunteers to be invaluable as they head off on, what for many is, their most amazing adventure.

It's been a very popular program with a number of the volunteers becoming very experienced, having participated in the program for the 10 years, or at least multiple seasons. There are two new hut wardens this year who will be supported by fellow WILDCARE Inc volunteers, program coordinator Bill Forsyth, and Cradle Valley Parks staff. The volunteers have a close and positive working relationship with visitor centre, ranger and track ranger staff, with ranger Eddie Firth in charge of the overall program.

Community Programs manager Andrew Smith said the program is a great example of how volunteers can enhance services to park visitors.

"It demonstrates the extraordinary commitment that volunteers are willing to make over a long period of time, their high level of skills and experience and their passion for Tasmania's reserves."

Volunteer hut wardens usually stay at Waterfall valley for shifts of 10 days. They carry in their supplies, with some of the heavier foodstuffs being flown in during other operations along the track.

The volunteers assist walkers with general enquiries, equipment advice and adjustments, first aid, weather information, flora and fauna advice, and undertake general hut and toilet cleaning, as well as a host of related tasks, including gathering statistics. In the past, volunteers have also been involved in coordinating rescues and fire evacuations in the area.

Parks and Reserves manager for Cradle Mt Lake St Clair National Park, Eddie Staier, said "The program and our dedicated group of volunteers provides a valuable service to PWS that also increases walker enjoyment of the Overland Track experience".

On November 22 and 23 the volunteers gathered at Cradle Valley for a pre-season get-together barbecue and training program to re-establish contact with staff, update procedures and expectations and a briefing about changes on the track and at the visitor centre. Ranger Eddie Firth also updated the induction and information package received by each volunteer.

"The continuing partnership with WILDCARE Inc has enabled us to provide a high quality and consistent walker education and advice service at Waterfall Valley over a long period of time," Eddie said.