Manage the Gardens of Stone so visitors are spellbound by nature

The Gardens of Stone area is more than just an iconic pagoda-studded landscape, it encompasses forested montane sand dunes, high altitude peat swamps, slot canyons, caverns, slot canyons, waterfalls, gorges and arches. It supports 1000 plant species, 33 vegetation communities, 319 vertebrate animal species, 42 threatened animals and 42 threatened plants.

There’s truly nothing like the Gardens of Stone – on the watershed of the Cox, Wolgan, Turon and Wollangambe rivers, it straddles the Great Dividing Range. At almost 1200 metres, the new reserve protects the highest sandstone plateau in the Sydney Basin and completes a gradient of sandstone reserves from the coast to the continental divide, enhancing climate change resilience with a cool area refuge.

Inexplicably, the reserve’s draft plans seek to defer urgent environmental restoration work for this outstanding reserve even though there are tens of millions of dollars earmarked for this work.

People in nature:

Family-friendly visitor experiences should branch off a Lithgow-centred 2WD touring road circuit, with visitor precincts offering a range of low-impact attractions (walks, lookouts, picnic grounds and camping areas) that encourage the majority to enjoy extended visits. This vision can ensure integration of rehabilitation of disturbed areas into the provision of visitor facilities. The approach has a further advantage, that remote and rugged escarpment areas, including 2,351 hectares of wilderness are left intact, with catering and accommodation (other than camping) provided in Lithgow and other nearby towns. 

For some unaccountable reason, the official management plans propose that visitors enter the new reserve by Old Bells Line of Road, a horror route used by heavy 5-axle trucks with trailers that goes past a massive, ugly, quarry, by-passing Lithgow and setting the proposed tourism opportunities up for failure. 

Lithgow benefits most when high impact adventure facilities are placed closer to town, on State Mine Heritage Museum land in State Mine Gully. Stunning Lost City views need not be blighted with intrusive adventure tourism facilities when this better alternative site exists that can boost tourism at the museum.