Concern over Mt Coolum's re-opening: Too soon, too fragile
THE reopening of Mt Coolum National Park has surprised some people dedicated to the protection of its unique biodiversity.
A fire spread across the mountain on Monday and Tuesday last week, burning about 50 hectares of bushland.
That bushland is regarded by ecologists to be particularly important, with unequalled diversity for such a confined area.
More than 700 plant types have been documented on Mt Coolum, including 590 flowering plants, 49 ferns and more than 100 species of lesser plants such as mosses.
It is also a very important cultural heritage site for traditional landowners, the Kabi Kabi people.
Coolum and North Shore Coast Care president Leigh Warneminde had concerns when she learned the popular walking track had been reopened on Wednesday afternoon, just a day after the fire burnt out.
On average, the park has about 2700 visitors a week.
"It's quite fragile and a lot of people don't stick to the designated paths," Ms Warneminde said.
She was worried that revegetation after the fire could suffer if plants were walked on.
"You have to let nature do its thing."
Ms Warneminde said the area was "really important" as far as biodiversity went and a lot of people didn't understand that.
She said there was probably no chance that people would stop using the walking track but hoped they would think closely about the ramifications of leaving the path.
"It might just make them think twice before they use it as a gym."
Sunshine Coast Environment Council spokeswoman Narelle McCarthy said she liked to see people enjoying national parks but thought preservation of ecology should take precedence over recreation.
"I think there needs to be an understanding, a bit of a reality check," Ms McCarthy said.
She said the area had been well-managed by Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service as its popularity with walkers had grown over the years.
But she was surprised it was re-opened last week.
A Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service spokeswoman said fire was a natural part of the coastal melaleuca, heath and forest vegetation communities.
"These communities regenerate well from fire," the spokeswoman said.
She said much of the burnt area was heath, generally regarded as a fire-promoting vegetation type due to natural volatile oils in its foliage.
"The fire will provide a nice ash bed to the soil and the flame and smoke from the fire should kick-start seed regeneration."
She said walkers had been asked to remain on defined tracks.
"If walkers do the right thing, the regeneration process will go well."
The spokeswoman also urged people to respect those who just wanted a quiet walk to appreciate nature and the views.
"The track is very well defined.
"Please stick to the track, even when others aren't climbing or descending at the same rate as you might want to go, be patient and courteous and pass on the track where safe to do so."