South-west Aboriginal elder Lenny Clarke checks out the newly reopened Gibson Steps yesterday. 090115GW10Picture: GLEN WATSONIT is easy to see why the Gibson Steps are so popular.As soon as Parks Victoria opened the Great Ocean Road attraction yesterday, a flood of tourists came to marvel at the ancient steps carved into a cliff face east of the Twelve Apostles.The landmark has been closed for almost a year while Parks Victoria completed works totalling $200,000 to stabilise erosion.Regional manager Rod Newnham said reopening the steps, which attract 300,000 visitors a year, was a top priority but admitted the works had been long and expensive.”But the only other option was (permanent) closure,” Mr Newnham said. “Stabilising the clifftop has been a complex and difficult geotechnical challenge.”About 20 people, including Corangamite Shire Mayor Ruth Gstrein and Cr Steve Cumming, gathered for the reopening. South-west aboriginal elder Len Clarke said Parks Victoria worked well to ensure indigenous cultural heritage values were protected.”It is a spiritual place for us but that’s not to say it’s not a spiritual place for the surfers or other users who come down here to meditate and relax,” he said.”We want to work with all parts of the community and beyond, including overseas visitors, because we take pride in sharing this place with that audience.” The stabilisation works involved building a retaining wall at the top of the cliff face. It is hoped revegetation works, to begin in coming months, will block visibility of the sandstone-coloured wall.Port Campbell Boardriders president Richard Stone praised those who had contributed to the reopening.”We would like to thank Lenny (Clarke) especially because he worked very hard on behalf of his community and ours,” Mr Stone said. “It is a great spot and we are very pleased public access has been restored.”Peter Younis, Port Campbell’s State Emergency Service unit president, agreed. “It is the most practical and convenient access point for all the beaches between Port Campbell and Princetown and very important in rescue operations,” Mr Younis said yesterday.
This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.