Friends of the Prom started life under the guidance of the Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) and encouraged by the National Parks Service.
The VNPA arranged a working bee on Saturday 17 November 1979 to clean up Darby Beach. That evening, a well-attended meeting at the Tidal River Information Centre voted to form a new group called Friends of the Prom. Over 50 people immediately expressed an interest in joining up and four VNPA members volunteered to be the founding co-ordinators of the group.
In those days, the working relationship between Friends of the Prom and Parks management was different than it is now. In its early days, the group took on some very interesting but physically demanding projects which would be less likely today because of reduced staffing levels at the Park, tighter budgets and much tighter OH&S regulations.
Some of the highlights of earlier working bees were –
- Summer boat trips to Refuge Cove to scrub graffiti off boulders and complete track work;
- Construction of where walking tracks passed through swampy areas
- Track construction – Vereker Outlook track, Sealers Cove to Refuge Cove, Tin Mine Cove track, boardwalks, Tidal Overlook Walking Track, construct and lay chain-linked timber slatting for walking tracks crossing sand dunes.
- Fencing of grazing animal exclusion plots
- Construction work – lookout at Oberon car park, the Stockyards shelter, the Tidal River plant nursery.
The group was able to build a strong bond of friendship and sociability among its members and other friends by working together on interesting tasks followed by congenial evening gatherings and relaxing Sunday walks. This set the pattern for our activities ever since.
In 1995, a Coast Action grant kicked off the Tidal River plant nursery with the encouragement of Parks staff. The nursery is operated by Friends of the Prom volunteers who visit the nursery once a fortnight to collect local seeds and cuttings to propagate seedlings for revegetation projects around the Prom.
Because of their work, the nursery volunteers have logged up many achievements for Friends of the Prom – the early dependence on making do with recycled and scavenged materials to build the original nursery; the ambitious revegetation projects such as at the quarry on the Mt Oberon Road, an area of Macalister Creek scoured bare by flash-flooding, restoring woodland behind the airstrip, revegetating around Darby River; and lately the never-ending task of re-vegetating areas damaged by foot traffic around Tidal River campsite; establishing a heathland display garden in front of the Tidal River store; and introducing school-age children to the magic of plant propagation.
The nursery group has also experienced its share of setbacks caused by nature (major fires and flooding) and by mechanical failure (watering system failure).
Natural disasters are not the only threats the Prom faces. From time to time, the natural wilderness values of the Prom are put at risk from those who want to see the nature of Prom visitation changed from a largely self-reliant camping and walking experience in a unique wilderness to a luxury resort for passive recreation.
Friends of the Prom has taken an advocacy role when inappropriate developments are proposed –
- 1997 – we objected to a proposal from government for further development at Tidal River including a licensed lodge. This led to the VNPA’s successful Hands off the Prom campaign.
- 2013 – 1,200 people from the VNPA, FOTP, Prom Campers Assoc. and other supporters crowded onto the Norman Bay Beach, to let the state government know what we think about their plans to privatise our national parks by giving 99 year leases to private developers.
- 2017 – We objected to the Minister issuing a licence to Pennicott Wilderness Journeys’ proposal to operate boat tours from Norman Bay Beach where Tidal River meets the ocean. We made submissions and were granted an interview with Minister D’Ambrosio but were not successful in stopping an operating licence being issued to the company. Our primary objection was the intrusive and disruptive presence of three large amphibious craft on a pristine beach which is one of the most popular beaches on the Prom used for swimming and beach-play.