Recollections on the 60th Birthday of The Save the Dandenongs League

Gordon Mitchell, October 2010

My wife and I live in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges at the gateway to the beautiful Lysterfield Valley, in the home that we created 60 years ago and where we still live.  I first became involved with the save the Dandenongs League when a group of local residents opposed the development of yet another basalt-rock quarry in that valley.  There was already a plethora of quarries in the area – one at Upper Ferntree Gully and another in Lysterfield.  With help from the Save the Dandenongs League we managed to overcome the proposed new quarry, some councillors lost their seats, and Sherbrooke Council became more environmentally friendly.

Upon joining the League, I was appointed as vice-President, the late Professor John Turner, an eminent botanist at Melbourne University was President, and the Late May Moon, a determined advocate for the conservation of the Dandenongs, was Hon. Secretary.  Other committee members that I recall were Mr. & Mrs. Peters, Peter Hiscock (later in charge of Sovereign Hill at Ballarat), Dr Willis and the Sherbrooke foresters.

It was always interesting to attend committee meetings at May Moon’s modest home, a house that she built herself, largely from the local stone.  I recall one of the pleasures of attending was to sample her delicious drop scones.  May seemed quite indefatigable in her knowledge of what needed to be done and had the unique ability to delegate tasks to members of the committee in order to achieve that goal.  (She also had the unique ability to ring late at night to discuss some particular task at hand, seemingly oblivious to the lateness of the hour.)

One of the major achievements in those days was when the League – and especially Prof. Turner, worked with the construction authority to redesign widening of part of a tourist road in Sherbrooke Forest.  As a result of ‘on-the-site’ negotiation, only one tree was felled and for the first time Sherbrooke introduced rolled curb edges to the paving of the road.  Another achievement was to obtain an agreement with the then proprietor of the Ferntree Gully quarry to re-habilitate the quarry face, as had been done at the Burchett Gardens in Canada.