In 1978 my father, Rob Caldwell, and his friend Greg Hayes wanted to open Ginninderra Falls to the public. They wanted to make it accessible. So they arranged for a lease on both the Falls and the house on the hill above the old Parkwood House. In those days it was called Brae Cottage, at the foot of Boxer Hill.
Dad and Greg set about building trails, railings and lookouts throughout the gorge down to the Murrumbidgee River. Over 4.5km of trails and over 750 steps, mostly built by hand. They created access to the Pinnacle and Pulpit Lookouts that view the Upper Falls and carved out trails that led to the Saddlehorn, Platypus Pool and Lower Falls. From the Lower Falls to the Murrumbidgee the rock was too difficult to make a path that could stand the test of floods so a painted Yellow Dot Trail marked out the easiest route through the gorge and then upstream along the Murrumbidgee River.
Rainbow Ridge was named for the Rainbow Bee-eaters that nested there and more steps were carved out here to lead visitors to the Tower Lookout where you could see both Falls and a great view of the River. From here back to the front gate was the only part of the trail constructed using a grader blade and the only trail accessible to wheelchairs, strollers and prams.
In 1979 Ginninderra Falls was opened to the public, charging gate entry to fund the general maintenance and further development of the park. Facilities included a new carpark, small kiosk, toilets, picnic tables and barbeque facilities. Dad used to have a campfire going and would offer talks on the flora, fauna, geology and history of the park, tea would be made in the billy, which would be swung to settle the leaves (sometimes he would add a gumleaf for that Aussie bush flavour!). There was canoe hire on the river and camping allowed near the rapids at Cusack's Crossing. There were numbered pegs marking varieties of trees and shrubs and a nature trail guide giving information on each one. It also explained the geology and some of the fauna that can be seen.
I have very fond memories of growing up at Parkwood. It is where my roots are. I grew up here, it taught me a respect for the landscape, for every rock and tree and animal. I have seen the Falls, barely a trickle, in the drought of the early 80s, I have seen them in full glorious flood. I remember stinking hot summers, camping in the pouring rain, blackberry picking in summer, swimming in the moonlight, crisp white frosts, warming campfires and paddling a canoe along the Murrumbidgee in an early morning silent mist, fishing for cod.
About 4 years ago my husband and I came for a visit, only to find it all locked up and inaccessible. It was heart wrenching to hear those magnificent falls and not be allowed to see them again.
It is wrong that they are locked up for only an elite few to see. Insurance and litigation is a very poor excuse, if that is the reason the Falls has been closed. At least if it is a National Park then it would belong to all Australians and all Australians would be responsible for its preservation (and our own skins if we get ourselves into trouble there!). Just like it should be!