Reminded of our place on the planet

I'VE met people who believe national parks should be made open to shooters, horse-riders and even loggers or miners.

I've also met people who believe national parks should only be their own private domain with "normal" visitors and family groups banned.

Like all things in life, I find the middle path between two extremes the best option.

And I can't see any problem with an observatory in our Dharawal National Park.

Particularly given the local astronomy buffs aren't interested in building on pristine bushland; instead they want to rehabilitate a "scorched earth" mining site. Brilliant.

I'm a great believer in getting people into national parks and proudly "adopting" them.

Of course, it's still early days for Campbelltown's Dharawal NP, given to us earlier this year by Premier Barry O'Farrell.

There are not yet any proper picnic areas, signed walking tracks or viewing platforms.

These things will come, it just takes a bit of time.

To put it in perspective, the fight to create a Warrumbungle National Park, in north-west NSW, began in the 1930s. It was finally declared in the 1950s but many proper access and tourist facilities came in the 1970s and 1980s.

I hope Dharawal will be quicker than that — but I cite Warrumbungle NP here because, firstly, I know it very well (my family originally hail from up there) and, secondly, because it has proven how successful a relationship between a park and an observatory (Siding Springs) can be.

With great support from the Aboriginal people, I might add.

Astronomy, of course, is not a purely European invention.

In the Warrumbungles, the Gamilaraay people have Dreaming stories recounting the creation of three constellations and specific words for shooting stars, the moon and the Milky Way.

And I'm sure the Dharawal people were just as interested in the night skies above them.

I can't say it any better than one chief ranger, Tim Lanyon, who in an interpretive plan described the evocative and inspirational setting of nature and noted "the power of the Warrumbungles to evoke some sense of deeper meaning to visitors about themselves — and their place on the planet."

The same could be said for our stunning gorge country.

jmcgill@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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