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Landcare group brings life back to our river reserves

Landcare group brings life back to our river reserves

Landcare group brings life back to our river reserves

Wednesday 30 August 2023
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When Samantha Kerr started the Friends of Sturt River Landcare group more than a decade ago, it was just herself and three other people.

Since then, 1200 volunteers have been involved in the group, which has ‘adopted’ eight different sites across the Holdfast Bay and Marion council areas.

In that time, they’ve completely transformed the council-owned reserves – all of which have a connection to the Sturt River (Warripari).

Most of the reserves were just “turf and trees”. Today, they’re thriving ecosystems that are filled with local natives, of both the flora and fauna varieties.

How has this been achieved? Simply by putting back the plants which belonged there.

"Every plant that we donate is pre-approved by the council’s biodiversity people so we only plant local native species – and when people join our group as members, that’s the main thing that we all have to agree on,” Sam said.

“The kinds of plants that are here are not the stuff you get out of Bunnings.

“We get them from State Flora or Trees for Life and they are grown from cuttings or seed collected from bits of remaining bushland on the Adelaide Plains.

“The genetic material of these plants is from actual bushland, and what we’re doing when we put these plants back is that we’re trying to re-establish relationships that would have been here between plants, animals and humans before everything was flattened and cleared away.”

Among the smallest of the sites that the Friends group cares for is Bob Lewis Reserve at Glenelg North, which it adopted in 2019 through Council’s Sturt River Greening Project. It was also the first site in Holdfast Bay that the group literally got their hands on, after starting in the Marion council area.

In 2013, the group adopted Oaklands Wetlands and since then, more than 100,000 plants have been added to the site.

But, at the end of the day, it’s not the size of the reserve that matters.

“We love these little reserves, and this (Bob Lewis) is probably one of the smallest ones we work on,” said Sam.

“It is small but beautiful. I always say that Bob Lewis is a gem because there are 45 different species of plants here in just this small space.”

While Council’s Open Space team does the mowing, the Friends group does “pretty much everything else on the reserve to look after the biozones”.

Further along, the river is Fordham Reserve, which the group has added more than 800 plants to in recent years. And across the river from Bob Lewis is Stewart Reserve, which is another small reserve that has benefitted from the group's love and handiwork.

There are plans to add another “reserve” to its list of Glenelg North sites in the future.

Council recently secured a Green Adelaide "Cooler, Greener, Wilder" grant of $69,055 to support the continuation of the Sturt River Biodiversity Corridor at a reserve on Shannon Avenue.

The community will be given the opportunity to be involved in this exciting project in the coming months.

The Friends group is also looking forward to beautifying and diversifying the space while adding to the connection between the other seven sites and providing even more shelter, safety and food for birds, insects and other animals.

“We have heard from people who live around here that there are some unexpected species that have come back – we had a Southern Boobook owl that also visited Fordham Reserve and our birds specialist in the group tells us that there are now up to 70 bird species that visit these reserves in this part of Glenelg North,” said Sam.

“If you put little ecosystems – we call them niches for creatures – then you get all of the benefits from tree planting and more.”

Attracting butterflies is another focus for the group, particularly in Fordham Reserve.

“We have put in a lot of plants which have flowers on the blue, pink and white colour spectrum, which is really excellent for insects to find their way to places,” Sam said.

The group is inviting people to come along to a butterfly discovery walk and working bee to be held at Fordham Reserve on Sunday 10 September 2023.

“We will look for eggs, grubs and other signs of butterfly life in and among the plantings. You can also learn more about how to encourage them into your own garden at home,” Sam said.

As with any other volunteer organisations, the Friends group is always looking for more people – and more hands – to help with weeding and planting. And Sam is keen to add that absolutely everyone is welcome. Currently, there are about 800 active volunteers.

“We always say you should do as much volunteering as you like – if that’s once a year, we’re happy to see you. If that’s every single time that we run an event, we’re happy to see you. We're just happy to see you,” Sam said.

“We just need people to engage in nature. We’re failing to look after it on a global level and we’re facing really serious challenges and changes which we really don’t know how to deal with.”

To encourage more people to give it a go, the Friends group is offering new volunteers, who sign up in spring, a $20 voucher to use at State Flora.

The voucher is to say thanks and encourage people to plant a local native in their own patch of ground at home.

“We’ve got little kids that come with their parents and I’ve still got people who are in their 80s who work on the registration desk for big events,” Sam said.

“I’ve had people come out with partners in wheelchairs at planting days and we find a way around because people are important.

“If people want to come out, connect with nature and be part of a community, we’re always happy to have them.”

Aside from volunteering, the Friends group is also asking for support by way of voting.

Sam is a finalist in the Westfield Marion Local Heroes competition with the winner earning $20,000 for their organisation.

“If we win, the $20,000 first prize we will fund volunteer insurance, our volunteer tool trailer and also make, maintain and monitor nesting boxes for native wildlife in the sites we have along the Sturt River,” she said.

To see more events organised by the Friends of Sturt River Landcare group, follow their Facebook page.

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