Testament to the sturdy, unerasable yet not immortal nature of the mountain communities west of the Snowy Mountains, the planting of a new crop of sugar pine seedlings in Bago State Forest has begun.
It will take a century for the seedlings to sink as deep into the slopes as their predecessors, but what will be fathomless is their phoenix-like place in the history of their space and the people who walk among the statuesque trunks.
The iconic Sugar Pine Walk in Bago State Forest was one of the best-kept secrets of the Snowy Valleys, the place for weddings, adventures, sightseeing, photography and – in the imaginations of children – fairies, trolls, toadstools, pixies, witches and, possibly, elves.
Sadly, when the fire roared through the region in the summer of 2020, the entire towering forest – just eight years short of a century in age – was lost forever.
The former site, which is located near the tiny village of Laurel Hill midway between Batlow and Tumbarumba, was planted in 1928 as a range of different exotic species were being trialled for the forestry industry.
They survived, growing to become a majestic landmark for tourists and locals alike.
Forestry Corporation of NSW’s Silviculture manager Roger Davies said about 1500 new seedlings were planted at the site last month.
He said the plants initially self-seeded after the devastation of the bushfire and were later collected and propagated to form the 2021 Sugar Pine Walk planting cohort.
That alone has been viewed as miraculous.
“The species is threatened in its native North America and biosecurity prevents seed from being imported into Australia,” Mr Davis said.
“Locally, the hefty cones are also a favourite food source for cockatoos so getting replacement seedlings has been no small feat.”
“The new sugar pine seedlings literally grew from the ashes, so are somewhat symbolic for the region’s recovery and also necessary for the replacement walk,” he said.
Mr Davis said the tiny seedlings still had a long way to go, but the replanting was an important step in rebuilding the site and the tourism experience of the area.
“The new site will also incorporate a number of large towering radiata pine that survived the bushfire to form part of the new Bago State Forest tourism precinct,” he explained.
Former Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro said upgrades and replanting of trees at the Sugar Pine Walk was made possible through the Regional Growth – Environment and Tourism Fund specifically to enhance visitor experience in the forest.
“The Black Summer bushfires dealt a huge blow to ecotourism in fire-affected areas and the NSW Government is backing projects that will bring nature-based tourism activities back to life and support regional economies,” Mr Barilaro said.
Grant-funded works in the Snowy Valleys include new and upgraded visitor areas, amenities and sculpture works under the guidance of project partners including Sculptures by the Sea.
“Replanting of the new Sugar Pine Walk is the first step in ensuring this unique and beloved visitor experience endures,” Mr Davies said.
“I’m excited that future generations will be able to experience the magic of walking amongst giants.”