Rehabilitation of Pink Lake celebrated with Tree Day

Pink Lake in recovery: A photograph of Pink Lake from 1980. The lake lost its pink appearance as a result of construction and commercial salt mining. Photo: Geoffrey Rose.
Pink Lake in recovery: A photograph of Pink Lake from 1980. The lake lost its pink appearance as a result of construction and commercial salt mining. Photo: Geoffrey Rose.

EXCLUSIVE

After more than 18 months of work to restore Pink Lake to its former glory, the former WA Salt factory site has been registered as part of Planet Ark's National Tree Day.

More than 2,500 seedlings have already been supplied, and more are on the way, ahead of the plantation day on Sunday, July 28.

The Lake, formally known as Lake Spencer, lost its pink appearance as a result of construction in the area and commercial salt mining between 1896 and 2007.

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After taking to social media in early 2018 to discuss what had happened to the lake and the illegal dumping issues plaguing the area, Pink Lake Recovery Project founder Chris Pope realised he had begun 'pulling at a thread'.

"More people started coming forward and showing me different things and I was just thinking 'what's going on out here?'," Mr Pope said.

"It was like pulling at a thread. I always believed Pink Lake was a protected asset to the town and it was being completed trashed.

"More and more information came forward and the community kept encouraging me to pursue it - it was very overwhelming.

"I started to understand the love affair with the place."

The post generated outrage among like-minded residents, prompting the formation of The Pink Lake Recovery Project - a group committed to protecting the lake.

The project was spearheaded by Mr Pope, who later uncovered rubber lining, black plastic and hessian fabric among masses of brittle and weathered blue tarpaulin, as well as more illegally dumped civilian waste at the site.

The group hosted a Tarp Target Recovery clean up in March 2018, with volunteers carting several trailer loads of rubbish from the site.

Blue tarpaulin fills a trailer following the Pink Lake Recovery Project's Tarp Attack clean up. Photo: Chris Pope.

Blue tarpaulin fills a trailer following the Pink Lake Recovery Project's Tarp Attack clean up. Photo: Chris Pope.

Despite its efforts, Mr Pope said the group had only managed to clear about 20 per cent of the plastic.

The work of the group was even recognised at the 2018 Tidy Towns Awards, helping the Shire of Esperance to secure the top spot for Environmental Sustainability.

What began as an effort to see the pink tint return to Pink Lake was fast becoming a campaign to rehabilitate the site for future generations, with the group calling on the state government to extend the nature reserve perimeter to encompass the lake and close existing vehicle access tracks being used to dump the waste.

At the request of the group, environmental officers from the Department of Mines visited the site to investigate the illegal dumping reports before agreeing to consider the rehabilitation of old mine access roads.

Mr Pope described the development as a "win for everyone, especially the kids", a small step that would contribute to their future and the future of Pink Lake.

More than one year on, Mr Pope said the plantation day was the first step in a long-term plan for the complete rehabilitation of the area, something he did not foresee when the project started.

"This plantation is one of a few steps in that project," he said.

"This event is just a really fun, family-friendly event and an opportunity to come out, do something for the environment and see what I've seen, the human impact on the area.

"Whether its one, ten, a tray or 100 trees that you can plant, come along because every little bit will help.

"There are still the blue tarps, but that will need something bigger than trailers and shovels.

"There will be other clean up projects in the area to undo the damage of the last lifetime, to rectify it.

"The disappearance of the pink colour is a pretty small thing in comparison to the ecosystem that exists there.

"What's blown me away are stories of bird migration and the lake's importance.

"We may not see the impact of what we're doing now in our lifetime but our kids will, and that's what it's all about."

A photograph of Pink Lake before it lost its pink appearance as a result of construction and commercial salt mining. Photo: Geoffrey Rose.

A photograph of Pink Lake before it lost its pink appearance as a result of construction and commercial salt mining. Photo: Geoffrey Rose.

With much of the surrounding land managed by different state departments and agencies and discussions over the future management of the reserve ongoing, Mr Pope praised Environment Minister Stephen Dawson for his proactive response.

"Mr Dawson has played an integral part in all of this with addressing the future management of the reserve and he should be congratulated," he said.

"Colin de Grussa has also been amazing, as well as Shire of Esperance environment officers Julie Waters [senior] and [park and environment manager] Dylan Gleave and South Coast NRM officers Claudia Magana and Robyn Cail.

"I'm a really small part of what has been a huge team effort."

The plantation day will begin on Sunday, July 28, from 9am at Collier Road, with people of all ages welcome.

For event details, or to keep up with the efforts of the group, visit the Pink Lake Recovery Project page on Facebook.

Mr Pope extended thanks to Environment Minister Stephen Dawson, Nationals MLC for the Agricultural Region Colin de Grussa and research officer Tori Castledine, Shire of Esperance senior environment officer Julie Waters and park and environment manager Dylan Gleave, South Coast NRM officers Claudia Magaa and Robyn Cail and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions' Robert Blok for assistance.

Mr Pope also thanked his father, Geoffrey Rose, Esperance Toyota's Russell Bridge, Keep Esperance Beautiful and the broader Esperance community for their unwavering support.

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation has advised that any suspected illegal rubbish dumping should be reported on 1300 784 782.