By OSCAR PERRI
The new Yeperenye trail, connecting Anthwerrke (Emily Gap) and Atherrke (Jessie Gap) in the East MacDonnell Ranges, was officially opened by traditional owners today.
It was funded from rent income for the jointly managed park, is the largest investment in public infrastructure ever made by a Central Australian Aboriginal group at $364,000.
“It makes me feel really proud that we did that, putting our money from my community and money back, given to us from the government and then putting it back to the trail here,” says Traditional Owner (TO) Lynette Ellis.
A large crowd of Santa Teresa and Amoonguna families, school groups, rangers, and local politicians turned out to take part in a smoking ceremony and have their first stroll along the trail, with lunch and an enormous cake waiting for them on their return.
To build the trail, local company Tricky Tracks were brought in to give the workforce of over 30 TOs on the job training in trail making, using only hand tools to avoid erosion.
Ms Ellis says there are lots of areas for employment for her people coming out of the project. As well as the new trail making skills she hopes the trail will bring more tourism over to the East side, creating demand for more businesses and guided tours.
“This is their first time doing it, it was a challenge for them, they really enjoyed it and they’ve got some good skills for it now.”
She also says it is important to share what they know about the country, landscape and culture of the place, which has cultural significance as part of the Yeprenye dreaming as the intersection of the three caterpillar songlines.
TOs began working on the project six years ago, bringing in the Central Land Council and NT Parks and Wildlife Services, who will be maintaining the trail and pitching in around $50,000 for interpretation signs along the track.
The design of the 7.2 kilometre trail is a collaboration between Tricky Tracks and TOs, follows the natural contours of the ranges, and featuring wheelchair access at either end and rest point along the track, to make sure that the track is accessible for seniors to enjoy.
Central Land Council chief executive Lesley Turner says his organisation’s role was mostly to support and advise the TOs in achieving their plan for the trail, and sees the success as an opportunity for similar developments in other joint management parks.
“It makes all central Australian Aboriginal people proud to see this trail, and what it can do for not only Aboriginal people but for the wider community here.
“Just talking here today a couple of people approached about whether they extend it to the other side of the gap at put back there, they want to talk to TO groups and extend it out from Heavitree Gap to Honeymoon Gap, and there’s probably even more opportunities.”
Ms Ellis’ community are also keen to do more, she says: “We will be doing more projects in both Gaps, Emily and Jessie, more projects coming on the way.”
PHOTO: Smoking ceremony to open bush path in the Eastern MacDonnells.