Riverkeeper travelogue

Riverkeeper travelogue
Rhonda Dredge

The first major bridge is the Charles Grimes and it marks the beginning of a journey to get to know the Yarra River better.

Charlotte Sterrett, the new Yarra Riverkeeper, is talking about the boat. The Puggle has a new canopy and is due for a service.

“I’m still getting to know this part of the river,” she said.

The electric-powered boat arrived just before the COVID lockdown, and they weren’t able to use it. It was delivered to Pier 35 from Western Australia.

She’s interested in the big issues facing the river, particularly the four-kilometre Greenline trail planned from Birrarung Marr to the Bolte Bridge. “It’s only six metres wide. How will they do it?”

The next bridge is the Spencer Street Bridge. Tony Isaacson is on his first trip on the Puggle, which he bought for the Riverkeeper.

“We’ve been sponsors of the Riverkeeper for eight years,” he said. “We’ve given untied donations. said ‘we want another boat’. Let’s get them one.” The winds pick up as the boat passes beneath the King’s Bridge and reaches the original turning circle at Enterprize Park, which used to be all rocks.

“They used to turn at Queens Bridge when the Yarra Yarra falls used to be here and the freshwater divided from the salt. The original rocks are covered with graffiti,” Ms Sterrett said.

As the boat approaches the Queens Bridge the canopy steams up and Tony talks about how he got involved.

“My interest in the Yarra was piqued by a campaign The Age ran in the ‘60s. The river was an artery of Melbourne. The whole of Melbourne was linked by the river.”

Under the Sandridge Bridge, Charlotte is concerned that the jetties are all private. There’s a tail wind and she’s worried the boat will turn around into a lee wind.

The atmosphere is moody, and she begins talking about resilience. She’s written a book on the topic. She thinks we are more like a developing country as we come out of lockdown.

She’s impressed by the number of volunteers Kooyong Independent MP Dr Monique Ryan gathered for the election and would like to see the same happen with the Yarra.

“We should all be riverkeepers. It’s what we do, that act of keeping and looking after.”

As we pass under the Evan Walker bridge they begin worrying about access to the river.

One day Tony took out a kayak at Westgate Park and thought he would have morning tea near Flinders St. “There was absolutely nowhere we thought we could stop.”

It’s teatime on board when we reach the soft edges past Princes Bridge and Nicole Kowalezyk is serving.

The north side of the city is more prominent on the return trip. This is where the Greenline strip park will go.

“We want to be part of the process,” Charlotte said. “We’re waiting on the design brief. We don’t want to be on anyone’s team.”

Tony used to run Kane Constructions and worked on the Plaza. “The worst thing is the shading on the river’s edge. Developers have claimed the river’s edge,” he said.

The river team, comprising Nicole, Megan, Tony and Charlotte, moors back at River’s Edge. •

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