Traditional owners of the Yeperenye/Emily and Jessie Gaps Nature Park are using the rent they get for the park to fund a new public walking and cycling trail between Anthwerrke (Emily Gap) and Atherrke (Jessie Gap) in the East MacDonnell Ranges.

The early Christmas present, which will create employment for Aboriginal workers, is the biggest investment by an Aboriginal group in public infrastructure.

“We want to share the place with everyone, and let them know that the community planned and funded it with our rent money,” traditional owner Lynette Ellis said.

The trail will create employment in trail construction, interpretive signage and repair and maintenance, as well as attract tourists to the sacred site 10 kilometres east of Alice Springs.

“Tourists should experience the East MacDonnell Ranges as well as the West Macs,” Ms Ellis said.

Traditional owners will spend more than $330,000 of their NT parks rent to construct the 7.2 kilometre dual usage trail. It will feature wheelchair access sections at both the Emily Gap and Jessie Gap ends, as well as seating at rest points.

“It’s so the old people and those who aren’t mobile can also come to the site,” Ms Ellis said.

The park is home to significant dreamings, the place where the three caterpillar songlines Yeperenye [Yep-ah-RIN-ya], Ntyarlke [N-CHAYL-ka] and Utnerrengatye [OOT-ner-ung-utch] intersect.

“The trail is an act of generosity by the traditional owners that will provide a welcome boost to the tourism industry at a time it needs it most,” Central Land Council chief executive Joe Martin-Jard said.

The CLC engaged Alice Springs company Tricky Tracks to manage the construction. The company plans to hire four workers from the community to build the trail by following the natural contours of the landscape and causing minimal disturbance to the environment.

They will train them in trail alignment and gradient selection, use of hand tools, erosion management and construction techniques.

“I’m looking forward to learning new skills for my future, so I can work in construction,” said Grant Alice from Amoonguna.

Mr Alice is also a member of the traditional owner group that allocated the funds and planned the project with the CLC’s community development program. The NT Department of Environment, Parks and Water Security’s Parks and Wildlife division is partnering with the CLC on the project.

Parks and Wildlife will provide interpretive signage at the trail heads along with trail marking and will repair and maintain the trail, providing ongoing employment opportunities for those acquiring the skills during construction.

This is the third substantial investment the Yeperenye traditional owners have made to enhance the visitor experience at the park.

Two years after installing seats and picnic tables worth $23,000 at Anthwerrke in 2015, the group spent $34,000 of their rent income to develop the Territory’s first interactive visitor app by traditional owners.

The Anthwerrke Experience app walks visitors and tourists through the area’s most significant dreaming sites, ecology and cultural history.

Ms Ellis has many more enterprising ideas for her community to build on the momentum of the trail.

“We would like to run guided tours and have Aboriginal rangers caring for country here too, and an art centre visitors can enjoy at Amoonguna.”

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