RidgeWalk: Exploring art and landscape in the Dandenongs

  • Project typeTrails
  • Project value9.8 million
  • Project scheduleConsultation/Design
  • Contractor nameArterial Design and Urban Initiatives
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RidgeWalk is a large scale art experience. It celebrates the natural and cultural histories of the Dandenong Ranges, from First Nations people to contemporary local communities. It runs along 39 kilometres of walking track.

RidgeWalk delivers 14km of new and improved tracks, architectural nodes, permanent sculptures, land art and heritage interpretation.  It also includes a program of temporary exhibitions and performances, attracting visitors from across the country and around the world.

Learn more about RidgeWalk(PDF, 11MB)

RidgeWalk is one of the four Rivers and Ridges projects, including the Warburton Community Recreation Precinctthe Yarra Valley Trail and the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination.

 

Master Plan finalised

Council adopted the RidgeWalk Master Plan, following significant consultation with the community earlier this year.

The community was engaged about the draft Master Plan through community events, workshops, drop-ins, walking consultations and forums, along with online surveys.

The draft was finalised with two rounds of engagement, in February-March and July-August 2020, with improvements to the plan made based on community feedback.

Council endorsed the RidgeWalk Master Plan, requesting that Council officers continue to consult with the community through the detailed design and construction phase of the project.

Click here to read the Master Plan(PDF, 91MB)

Maps

We've prepared a map of the RidgeWalk route to date on Google Maps for community members to view. Please note that the path has not been finalised.

 

Project background

Background

RidgeWalk was first conceived in 2017, and is led by Yarra Ranges Council in partnership with State and Federal Government, Wurundjeri Council, Parks Victoria, local residents, artists, businesses, schools, cultural and community organisations.

Indigenous culture, the environment, heritage and creativity were the key local values identified during this early conceptual phase, and they continue to underpin all subsequent project activities. 

The project is fully funded to $9.8 million dollars, with contributions from The Australian Government, Victoria’s Growing Suburbs Fund and Yarra Ranges Council.

History and culture

At its core, RidgeWalk is about stories. Stories that explore humans’ connection to land and how this connection has played out within the Dandenong Ranges over millennia. These stories will be told by many voices and through multiple channels across a 39km walking track.

There are numerous iconic Australian art works that feature the Dandenong Ranges, including William Barak’s “Ceremony”, Eugene von Guerard’s “Ferntree Gully in the Dandenong Ranges” paintings, landscape paintings by Heidelberg School artists such as Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton, modernist landscape paintings by Fred Williams, who lived in Upwey, and the art of Yorta Yorta artist Lin Onus who drew on the rainforest around his home in Belgrave as inspiration for his art.

Given RidgeWalk’s strong emphasis on narrative, two cultural studies were completed to inform the project.  These studies outline the stories that will be brought to life through the project’s dynamic creative program.

Ridgewalk: A History of Culture, Artists and Creativity in the Dandenong Ranges

In 2017, Yarra Ranges Council commissioned, Ridgewalk A History of Culture, Artists and Creativity in the Dandenong Ranges. The report was developed by Bronwyn Hannah History and Heritage in collaboration with local history groups. 

Featuring:

  • Three brief historical accounts of the Dandenong Ranges — natural history, Aboriginal history and colonial/postcolonial history
  • A stand-alone illustrated catalogue with 30 entries on the life and work of locally distinguished individuals and five accounts of local creative households

Aboriginal Cultural Values Assessment Report

In 2019, Yarra Ranges Council worked with the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation, Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation, Boon Wurrung Foundation and Extent Heritage to create an Aboriginal cultural values report.  The report provides a greater understanding of Aboriginal culture and history in the Dandenong Ranges.  

Key themes from the report:

  • Contributions of significant past Elders who have been active in the Dandenong Ranges
  • Importance of the mountain environment in the provision of food (kangaroo, eels, fern hearts) and commodities (lyrebird tails)
  • Association of the mountains and ridges with the flow of water, travel and movement
  • The tourist trade of the mid-20th century attracting Aboriginal entrepreneurs such as Bill Onus and drawing the nation’s attention to Aboriginal arts and crafts
  • Presence of extensive forested crown lands provided a setting for the occupation and reclamation of land by the Bunurong Land Rights Claim in the 20th century 

Art

Art, both historic and contemporary, are central to RidgeWalk. The development of new works will provide a way to interpret and reflect stories surrounding the thriving cultures, rich histories, distinctive ecosystems and unique townships of the region.

RidgeWalk will feature permanent works and a rotating contemporary art program of new media, sculpture and performance.

Works will be site specific and conceptually fit within the project’s overall theme of art and landscape.

A Curatorial Framework is being designed to establish and maintain consistency along the trail, so that a clear narrative remains at the core of the ongoing creative response.

Curatorial Principles

The cultural experience of RidgeWalk is dynamic. It responds and evolves with the people who engage with it.  The following principles serve as a foundation for the creative outputs of RidgeWalk. The principles are designed to reflect community values and support the realisation of the project vision.

1. Transformational

The art of RidgeWalk challenges and changes our perceptions of the natural and cultural landscapes of the Dandenong Ranges.  Creative projects are designed with learning in mind will be experiential and exploratory.

2. Environmental

The landscape of the Dandenong Ranges is at the heart of all content. All aspects of the project reflect the deepest respect for the land and its Traditional Owners. All artwork and concepts are driven by a response to the site’s historical or environmental context and the land on which they are created.

3. Culturally Respectful

All creative outputs are culturally respectful. Cultural ownership is honoured by an assurance that representation of Indigenous culture is Indigenous-led and community specific.

4. Participation

Projects are participatory and inclusive, and there are opportunities for community co-creation and co-curation. The experience for the participant is interactive, sensory and diverse. The participant moves through an experiential environment, accessing cultural content using multiple senses.

5. Dynamic

Art sites spaced along the track evolve and change over time. Projects and spaces transform to create new contemporary experiences. There is a mix of event-based, ephemeral and permanent work.

Cultural Experience

RidgeWalk is a contemporary art experience with stories expressed through a variety of creative platforms.  Art and signage will be paced along the track to provide visitors with rich and diverse cultural encounters while preserving the natural experience.

Nodes                        

Five nodes located along RidgeWalk each represent a key theme of the project. These designed spaces are destinations focused on learning through storytelling, heritage and interpretation.  The role of the nodes is to engage visitors in learning experiences that heighten their curiosity of the themes and stories of RidgeWalk. The designated theme for each node informs its unique design. Stories, images and interpretive material expressed within the built elements of the nodes enable visitors to learn about the shared cultural histories of this place.

Permanent Art

The collection of permanent art includes substantial sculptures or land art with a minimum lifespan of 15 years. These works are significant in concept, scale and material. They are site specific and respond to the surrounding country, community and history.  Four permanent artworks are allocated funding in the RidgeWalk capital budget, and two of these are significant Indigenous art projects. 

Temporary Art & Programming

RidgeWalk maintains a diverse mix of temporary art and programming. Highlights include installations, performances and other actions occurring at specific locations for a defined period. The lifespan for temporary works can be from one day to one year. These ephemeral experiences are developed through artist residencies, partnerships, commissions or other targeted programs. 

Digital – Beyond Site

A webpage and app with audio-guide and augmented reality capabilities are developed for RidgeWalk. These digital tools function as practical visitor guides, learning hubs, participatory vehicles and tools for artists to express creative content.

Wayfinding and Interpretive Signage

Signage along the track provides both practical guidance and enriching cultural information. In addition to wayfinding, signage interprets many of the historical stories of the region and provides users with engaging provocations to enhance their journey.  

Environment

RidgeWalk will promote responsible use of the forests and is an opportunity for education and celebration of the significance and diversity of the natural environment.

The project will increase collaboration between Council, Parks Victoria, traditional owners of the land and local environmental groups to ensure its conservation and sustainable use.

The Track

The RidgeWalk track was established through extensive community consultation and rigorous site evaluation. User experience, local connectivity, minimal environmental impact and proximity to parking infrastructure and public transportation were strongly considered.

With 14 kilometers of new and upgraded tracks, RidgeWalk leads visitors through stunning natural sites. At the same time, it provides insight into the cultural heritage of the region and prompt reflection upon human connection with the natural world. It offers a contemporary exploration of art, landscape and Indigenous ways of knowing.

The track is carefully aligned to provide a varied experience.  Visitors enjoy views of the Melbourne skyline through the treetops, are immersed in the ecosystem of the forest floor and encounter vibrant communities, towns and villages.

Access & Inclusion

RidgeWalk will be for everybody. From the trails to the artwork and interpretation, RidgeWalk will engage directly and deliberatively with universal access and inclusion. 

Sensory and creative responses will provide opportunities for access and inclusion physically and conceptually.

Whilst it is not possible for the entire trail to be constructed to fully accessible grades, throughout the initial design process consideration was made to establish sections of the walk to be physically accessible by people with disabilities. These sections will be flagged on maps and along the trail, to inform path users of the trail conditions.

The location of Nodes and artistic sites have been identified with consideration of their universal accessibility to ensure all users can enjoy the rich cultural experience of RidgeWalk.

Parking and Transportation

The trail route has been established to align with existing rail and bus routes, proximity to underutilised parking locations, and existing amenities. 

Parking and transport are a key component of the infrastructure required to support the project. While RidgeWalk is likely to increase visitor numbers to the region, it will also anticipated to decrease the reliance on cars to move between townships, redistribute the current parking demand and encourage the use of public transportation. 

There are approximately 17 car parks in the proximity of RidgeWalk with a combined capacity exceeding 1200 car spaces, including accessible parking at several locations. A further 84 new parking spaces will be established through proposed expansions or reconfigurations.

Bus routes 688 and 698 and train lines on the Belgrave line provide access to every segment of the RidgeWalk network, making entry possible from Melbourne’s metropolitan train system. Current bus stops are well-located with regard to their proximity to sections of RidgeWalk. Some bus stops will be marked in key places along RidgeWalk to ensure the experience dovetails with the public transport network.

Masterplan

Yarra Ranges Council commissioned the development of a master plan for RidgeWalk in 2018.  The RidgeWalk Master Plan presents a vision that is supported by concepts, ideas and detailed plans to achieve the project.  It provides mapping, instruction, inspiration and guidance for the design, construction and development of ongoing opportunities within the project. 

Master planning consultants used the cultural studies as a foundation for their work. They conducted extensive site analysis and drew upon the experience and expertise of local residents engaged throughout the process.

The Master Plan includes:

  • Detailed maps of the track route
  • A cultural framework outlining the project’s narrative and core themes
  • Concept designs for nodes, artistic sites and wayfinding
  • Locational information for nodes, artistic sites, wayfinding signage, accessible tracks, amenities, parking and transportation
  • Technical details of surface treatments for new and upgraded tracks
  • Summaries of associated reports and assessments for economic modelling, traffic, parking and movement 

The Master Plan was formally adopted by Council in September, 2020, following extensive community consultation.

Read more(PDF, 91MB)

Timeline

The project timeline features a number of stages.

Project Planning Feb 2018 - June 2020

  • Master plan
  • Cultural Study
  • Cultural Values Assessment 
  • Community engagement
  • Cost Plan
  • Risk Assessment 
  • Parking, movement and transport study
  • Financial and economic impact assessment
  • Stakeholder endorsement 
  • Curatorial Framework 

Detailed Design & Documentation Jan 2020 – Sept 2020

  • Permits and approvals
  • Bushfire management
  • Ecological assessment
  • Cultural heritage management plan
  • Aboriculture assessment
  • Site surveying
  • Detailed drawings for path infrastructure
  • Nodes detailed design and documentation
  • Wayfinding and signage detailed design and documentation

Construction December 2020 - March 2022

  • Trails and path upgrades
  • Nodes
  • Parking and infrastructure
  • Artworks
  • Wayfinding and signage

Engagement

Throughout 2018 and 2019 project staff and Master Planning consultants explored ideas about art, history, transportation, recreation, parking and tourism with the community to help shape RidgeWalk. 

Community engagement has served a critical role in the project’s development so far, and will continue to guide RidgeWalk into the future.

A draft of the Masterplan was open for public comment in June 2019. The project team and Master Planning consultants are reviewing feedback and making improvements. Any significant changes to the draft plan will be re-released to the community for further feedback in early 2020. 

Consultation has taken place with bodies such as the National Gallery of Victoria, Tourism Victoria, Creative Victoria, RMIT, Deacon University, The Highline (New York), and the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art. Specific workshops with artists and environmental groups continue to occur.