How do you feel about inviting a few friends over to your place for a little rest and recreation? Maybe you’re relaxed about it or perhaps a bit stressed out? Compare your situation with the team at Shakespear Regional Park, who welcome two-thirds of a million visitors each year. I chatted to some of the folks involved to see how they prepare for this huge number of visitors.
We started by identifying why so many people come. The park offers open space walking with amazing views, beautiful native bush, mountain biking, water sports, swimming, camping, beaches, barbecues, trail and cross-country running.
Of course, it takes quite an effort from the many volunteers and the Council staff to keep the park in tip-top condition ready to welcome visitors. Some of their tasks are obvious: managing the farm animals, cutting the grass, removing rubbish, maintaining roads and tracks. Weeds require an on-going programme of search and removal. This work is shared between contractors and volunteers. It’s only possible to host our native wildlife behind the predator-proof fence. Checking and maintaining the fence and access points is a core activity.
But the fence only runs from coast to coast so pests can sneak in around the ends at low tide. Over the past year the rangers have put in an enormous effort to track down and remove stoats from the park. Seven have already been caught, but there are still a few more to get. Some stoats are remarkably difficult to trace and trap, stretching the ingenuity of the rangers to the technological limits. They have been using special thermal imaging cameras with artificial intelligence software which attempts to identify the species photographed and self-reporting live traps which send a daily status report on whether they have been triggered, both saving many hours of checking time. Temporary mini-walls have been set up in the bush to try to steer stoats towards a gap where a trap can be placed. And, as stoats seem to like to play on wooden structures, traps have been placed underneath an inviting jumbled playground.
Volunteers are vital to the successful operation of the Park. They work in the plant nursery, plant trees, do track maintenance and building, provide educational talks, do fence checking and beach cleanups, help with the farm animals and do much of the species management including work with hihi (stitchbirds), kiwi, seabirds, reptiles and dotterel protection.
So, next time you visit, spare a thought for those who made it possible and maybe think about volunteering yourself.