NATIMUK resident Keith Lockwood is hoping Parks Victoria can have an "honest and open discussion" about the future of access to Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park, as the body prepares to host an information session in the town later this month.
In December, Parks and Barengi Gadjin Land Council announced significant Aboriginal cultural heritage, including rock art, had been rediscovered at Taylors Rock, a small outcrop in the state park separate to the Arapiles itself.
Parks has since installed signs advising people to not enter the area, which is known to be used by rock climbers.
On Wednesday January 29, the organisations will jointly stage an information drop-in session at Natimuk's community centre.
A Parks spokesman said this would provide the community with more information about the rediscoveries and how they will be protected.
"While this is not a consultation on future park management, representatives from Parks Victoria and Barengi Gadjin Land Council will be on-hand to hear people's thoughts about the park's cultural, natural and recreational values," he said.
"As with most parks and reserves in Victoria, Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park contains Aboriginal cultural places, the full extent of which is still being understood.
"We will support Barengi Gadjin Land Council to undertake cultural heritage surveys in the state park once a timeline for such assessments has been established."
Parks said a specific session was also being organised for Licensed Tour Operators earlier in the day.
Mr Lockwood, of Natimuk, said he "would love to see this meeting be aproper exploration on everyone's thoughts on it".
Mr Lockwood said most people had respected Parks's advice not to enter Taylor's Rock. He said the advice had "had an immense impact on climbers throughout the world".
"People already asking 'What's happening exactly at Mount Arapiles?'," he said.
"Climbers plan their Australian trip based on favorite spots, and Arapiles is the prime interest. If they think they are going to be shut out of a place they will change their plans and go somewhere else like New Zealand."
"There hasn't been a big impact so far economically because this isthe dormant season for climbers. But psychologically it's a huge blow because people wonder what next will they say we can't do? There is no assurance Taylors Rock is the start and finish of it all."
"There has to be more open and honest discussion about it to allay people's fears."
Mr Lockwood was previously a founding member of the Arapiles Advisory Group, a board of community members set up to advise Parks on how to manage the state park.
Mr Lockwood, who was also on the forests commission management committee before Arapiles-Tooan became a state park, applied to be returned to the group when its three-year term expired in 2018, but said he had not heard anything from Parks since early 2019.
Parks Victoria said details about the advisory group and its function would be shared at the information session, and that it would contact nominated members this month.
"There hasn't been a big impact so far economically because this isthe dormant season for climbers with all the heat, but psychologically it's a huge blow because people wonder 'What next will they say we can't do?'. There has to be more open and honest discussion about it to allay people's fears."
In the past 12 months, concern about the future of rock climbing in the Arapiles and Grampians parks have risen.
In February 2019, Parks Victoria announced it would start more strictly enforcing restrictions on climbing in eight "Special Protection Areas" in the Grampians. These areas cover parts near Dunkeld, the Wannon River, the Upper Glenelg River, the Southern Victoria Range, Northern Victoria Range, Victoria Valley, Mount WIlliam Range and Hollow Mountain.
Parks has also allowed licensed tour operators to continue taking people climbing in Summer Day Valley until March 31. It said it had not yet made a decision on licence extensions, but would communicate this to licensed tour operators in advance of the end date.
What do you think should happen at Mount Arapiles?