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Almost a Walker's paradise: A history of the Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair Scenic Reserve to May 1922

Almost a Walker's paradise: A history of the Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair Scenic Reserve to May 1922
 Timothy Jetson

2005

School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania, Hobart TAS 7005, AUSTRALIA.

ABSTRACT

This thesis traces the transformation of the Cradle Mt-Lake StClair National Park from waste land to a mecca for bushwalkers. It is based on the premise that walking in wild places does not occur until walking is a valued pastime, such places are identified, appreciated and made accessible, and there is a group with the affluence, time, and inclination to walk there. Romantic, and later environmental, ideology underpinning this development provided a framework within which colonists viewed the landscape. Aborigines and later European pastoralists, hunters, piners and miners modified the landscape, and explorers, government and private, discovered and made known the area. The continuing search for grazing lands and gold made the area more accessible to the general public. From the mid 19th century the number of walkers, including women, increased from a few to a steady trickle. Most were educated middle and upper class professionals and nearly all relied on locals, often hunters and prospectors, as guides. Although attitudes to the land remained predominantly utilitarian throughout the 19th century, there always existed a minority whose appreciation was aesthetic. Expressing approval in Australian terms was a slow process and even by May 1922 when the area became a scenic reserve some comparisons were unmistakably British. Many forces contributed to this evolution. Some were Australian adaptations of international concerns such as the influence of natural history, a perceived need to protect and preserve naive flora and fauna and reserve lands from exploitative land uses. An ever increasing proportion of native born in the population grew up knowing no other landscape. The works of artists and photographers played a central role in awakening this new appreciation. International examples provided models for land protection and indicated potential economic benefits from tourism to national parks. Tourism bodies and scientific associations coalesced to lobby successfully for national parks and scenic reserves. Passage of the Scenery Preservation Act 1915 and creation of the National Park, 1916, signified government approval for these new ideas. Gustav Weindorfer, Clive Lord, ET Emmett and Fred Smithies spearheaded a campaign for a national park for the Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair area. Pressure from mining and hunting groups ensured that a compromise, a scenic reserve, was reached. The decision recognised bushwalking as one component of tourism-recreation dominance as exploitative land uses continued within or surrounding The Reserve.