Maleny Trail - The viewing platform at the platypus hole is always a popular spot.

The viewing platform at the platypus hole is always a popular spot.

by Dale Jacobsen

Something very special has grown on our doorstep over the last three years – the Maleny Trail. People, wildlife and plants are drawn to this inviting habitat, still in the process of creation, and a walk along the banks soon reveals why.

I took a walk along the Maleny Trail in the typical coolness of a Maleny twilight to see, for myself, what has been achieved by the banks of Obi Obi Creek. And I was astonished.

People walking dogs, riding bikes, jogging, ambling along, were everywhere. As was the wildlife. A pair of rainbow lorikeets crawled along the branch of a huge fig, making for the bird box they call home; a white-faced heron searched among the mat-rushes for its last meal of the day. Skinks rustled in the undergrowth.

What amazed me most was the growth that has occurred in the replanted areas in just three years. Ron Sharp, project manager and director of Maleny District Green Hills Fund, told me of their succession plan.

“We aim for rapid cover within two to three years, establishing a canopy to provide shelter for the next layer of plants and rainforest species. This also limits ongoing maintenance costs.

“As plant species like wattles and bleeding hearts reach their limit, they fall, allowing the rainforest species to emerge. They quickly decompose, feeding the soil and creating protective habitat for the animals.” It will take around 20 years for the forest-like profile to fully develop.

This trail, opened in 2015, has become the local exercise pad of choice for so many people. Ron explained: “We can have 30 people an hour working out in the cool of early morning, including young mums pushing prams.

“Early evening brings out the dog walkers and more gentle walkers. On most days, around 150 people use the trail.”

Each person has their own reason for being on the trail, such as Maleny resident, Doug McGufficke, who has lived with Parkinson’s Disorder for the past five years. “A major effective activity of managing my health is an hour’s fast walk every second day,” said Doug.

“I have developed a six-kilometre course that includes the Obi Obi Creek Walkway. My best distance within the hour is 6.4 kms. To date, I have completed 150 walks, starting at 6.30am. As I finish each session, I comment: ‘Wow!! I gotterdun!!’ It is very uplifting.”

They aren’t all locals either. “Around 40% of the midday users are visitors to Maleny. The Information Centre folk do a great job talking up our popular attraction,” says Ron.

Apart from the human interaction, the story of wildlife regeneration is a huge success. Ecologist Dr Les Hall, who is also a director with Green Hills, explained: “Build a habitat, the wildlife will find it. In no time, they modify it for themselves. Fruit-eating birds drop seeds then rainforest trees take hold and grow to feed the birds.”

An impressive 54,000 trees have been planted along the 4.8 kilometre trail. In a huge effort involving the community, 18,500 have been planted by Green Hills over the past couple of years.

“The partnership between Sunshine Coast Regional Council, Unity Water and Green Hills is a very important one, delivering environmental outcomes to the Maleny Community Precinct,” said Ron.

“They contribute to the funding that provides ongoing maintenance for community plantings. The volunteers have a sense of pride of ownership.”

With the revegetation has come the wildlife. I saw the remains of red-browed firetail nests in myrtle shrubs right beside the pathway.

Maleny Trail - The boardwalk platypus pops up at dusk.

The boardwalk platypus pops up at dusk.

As we stopped by the platypus viewing platform, a group of dusky moorhens preened by the bank, and a little bittern perched on a log, reflected in the water before a background of lush forest.

While we stood waiting to see a platypus, two families wandered onto the viewing platform, then a couple with a dog on a leash. Ron told me how important it is for owners to keep their pooches restrained. “If we want to see rare species like the rose skink survive here, we must protect them from dogs who love to chase wildlife.”

The further we walked along the track, off the concrete wheelchair-friendly path and into the older regeneration area, the more peaceful and lush the surroundings became, with silky oaks and blue quandongs reaching 10 metres or more.

‘Peace among the trees’ was the theme chosen by Art4Space (overseen by Edith-Ann Murray, also a Green Hills director) for 13 sandstone sculptures by Maleny artists that line the concrete section of the path.

Plans for the future include developing the Southern Wetland into a community wetland. Les said that, after Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, it is the most biodiverse area around Maleny, and the only remaining one of its type on the Blackall Range. There are also plans for a footbridge to cross the Obi Obi to access Gardners Falls.

I ended my walk right on dark and, on cue, three platypus popped up beneath the boardwalk for my own private show. What a special place has been created.