Parks Beyond Borders: Global National Park News PEI Is 75, Oz Gets New National Park, And More ...

Cycling Prince Edward Island National Park.

Canada's spectacular Prince Edward Island National Park has a range of reasons to celebrate its 75th anniversary—recreation being one of them. Photo courtesy Parks Canada.

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Prince Edward Island National Park Celebrates 75 years

The 75th anniversary of Canada’s spectacular Prince Edward Island National Park is on April 24, 2012. Expect a packed calendar of celebratory events.

A “magical evening” of fun and commemoration marks the April 24th anniversary at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown just south of the park. The program will explore natural and cultural history, with cultural demonstrations, music, video, and images from the park’s past and present. You’ll also be able to see the collection of items being gathered for the park’s 75th anniversary time capsule.

The main ongoing event is a 75-for-75 Trail Challenge underway now to October 8, 2012. Participants who log 75 kilometers of walking, biking, running, skiing, or snowshoeing in PEI National Park receive a certificate and memento of their feat. Register online, choose your challenge, and track your progress.

There are many other events, among them Aboriginal Awareness Week starting May 23, the PEI National Park “Big Week of Birding,” June 1-10, and a Beach Birthday Party on July 21 at Brackley Beach. Come hungry to the St. Peters Wild Blueberry Festival and Homecoming July 29 to August 5, 2012. And the Prince Edward Island Marathon is October 14 from Brackley to Dalvay.

New National Park South of Sydney Likely to Protect Koalas

On March 25, 2012, the new Dharawal National Park south of Sydney was proclaimed by Premier Barry O’Farrell. The park had been “promised” by former Labor premier Bob Carr in 1993.

The park came to fruition after a coal mining proposal in 2009 aroused fears that the coastal area would be decimated. Noting that mining below the surface would no longer be a threat, Pat Durman, executive committee member of the Macarthur Branch of the National Parks Association, said, “It protects the park to the centre of the Earth and it is a big win for Campbelltown.”

The mining project was proposed by BHP Billiton, an Anglo-Australian multinational mining, oil, and gas company headquartered in Melbourne Australia, and billed as the world's largest mining company measured by 2011 revenues.

The park’s 14,800 acres (6000 hectares) of Dharawal includes rugged sandstone gorges, upland swamp, and urban watersheds, on Sydney’s back doorstep east of Campbelltown and Appin, south of Sutherland, and west of Wollongong. The park, which had been the Dharawal State Conservation area, includes Darkes Forest, Maddens Falls, and the pristine headwaters of the Georges River. Mrs. Durman said the park was also home to rare and endangered wildlife, and Aboriginal rock sites.

“We’ve actually done what we said we were going to do and delivered this national park,” said Campbelltown state Liberal Minister of Parliament Bryan Doyle.

Greg Bondar, CEO of the local Aboriginal Land Council representing the Tharawal people, said the Tharawals “have been involved in campaigning for this national park on our traditional lands since the 1880s.”

Long-time Dharawal park proponent, and secretary of the Georges River Environmental Alliance, Sharyn Cullis, described the new parkland as, “nature’s own wet and wild theme park with cool, deep swimming holes and bubbling, natural spa pools. Beautiful creeks make it an ideal place for summer water play.” With “other nearby national parks virtually bursting at the seams on busy weekends ... in our ever-growing and recreationally insatiable city, (Dharawal) is the next national park we have to have.”

University of Western Sydney koala expert Robert Close, writing in a column for the local Campbelltown-Macarthur Advertiser, said that the Dharawal “is a refuge area for koalas.” Close believes the O’Hare’s Creek gorge in the park “is the place where koalas will survive bushfires—and by surviving bushfires, there’s always going to be recovery.” Close first noticed the importance of the gorge when he found a radio-collared male sheltering in a cave on a very hot day.

Preserving Dharawal, says Close, “will mean there will always be a source of koalas to recolonize areas damaged by fire—free from dogs and cars.” The new park is linked by bushland and natural corridors to a variety of other preserves in the area, including Royal National Park.

For now the park has few facilities—there is a designated path to Maddens Falls. Even for better known attractions such as Minerva Pool, the usual visitors are “local bushwalkers in the know.” Public input will soon be solicited for what's expected to be A$1 million in new facilities.

Jeff McGill, editor of the Campbelltown-Macarthur Advertiser, recently wrote that, “All the good stuff is hidden down various tracks which are not marked at the moment, and even tend to disappear in spots. For an unknowing layperson from deep suburbia, you might end up more bushwhacked than bushwalked.” An opening event is expected on May 5. Visit the Friends of Dharawal National Park on Facebook.

Royal National Park, just south of Sydney, was proclaimed on April 26, 1879. As such, it's the world's second oldest national park (after Yellowstone), and according to Wikipedia, the first to be referred to by the term "national park."

Plan Ahead for Savings at South Africa National Parks

Stay at any of the Cape Region’s South African National Parks during the winter months of May/June/July to receive a 20% discount off lodging or camping rates. Lodging rates are as low as US$44 (Rands 352 per unit per night). The parks featured are Agulhas, Bontebok, Table Mountain, Tankwa and West Coast.

SANParks also just announced that it will again be offering a 40% summer discount on all reservations made through the SANParks online booking system for lodging or camping at the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013. Discounts are available at selected camps in nine different national parks for the period from November 25th to December 7th, 2012 and from January, 13th to 31st, 2013.

A park vacation to South Africa requires planning far ahead to get the best airfares. Luckily, "SANParks is announcing these special online deals early to facilitate advanced holiday planning and to ease financial burden on our guests," says Bheki Zwane, SANParks general manager for sales and marketing. The discounts don’t include conservation fees.

The May through July discounts apply only to accommodations and camping, do not include conservation fees, activities, meals, and exclude houseboats in West Coast National Park. They also don’t apply to long weekends and school holidays from June 22nd to July 16th, 2012.

SANParks' pitch invites you to, “Curl up in front of the fireplace and listen to the sound of crashing waves in Agulhas National Park at the southernmost tip of Africa; Unwind while taking a walk in the crisp clean air alongside the Breede River in Bontebok National Park; Stay in a tented camp set in an ancient Afromontane forest in Table Mountain National Park; Go stargazing and experience the joy of space and tranquillity in abundance in Tankwa Karoo National Park; Visit the thousands of seabirds who have made their home by the Langebaan Lagoon in West Coast National Park.”

These four parks are being touted for “anyone wanting to get closer to nature without being too far from the Mother City,” meaning Cape Town.