FOR almost 20 years Nowra resident Charlie Weir put his heart and soul into improving the health of the Shoalhaven River.
Now the mangrove man will hand his project over to invest a little time into his own health.
Mr Weir has been the driving force behind a Riverwatch project that has so far resulted in about 100,000 mangroves and 25,000 casuarina trees being planted along more than seven kilometres of the Shoalhaven riverbank.
That’s a lot of trees, or as Mr Weir put it, “they’re as thick as hairs on a cat’s back”.
Over the years he has taken countless boatloads of young people under his wing and taught them the importance of looking after the region’s estuaries and waterways.
In calm waters motoring slowly along the river’s edge Mr Weir points out various nooks and crannies that only his intimate understanding of the area can fathom. Areas where, 20 years ago, slabs of riverbank the size of wardrobes would slump into the water.
Mr Weir propagated almost every one of those trees that now tie the banks together, and he is clearly proud of what he and the many volunteers who had joined him achieved.
A few years ago he said he was beginning to lay the groundwork for the next generation to take over.
“I’ve done my time and I’ve got to start slowing down now,” he had said.
“People know me and that tells me people are taking notice and showing an interest.
“When I look at all those trees and mangroves I feel very excited. It’s satisfying. I feel as though I have almost completed things.
“It makes me feel real good to get others involved and I couldn’t have done what I have without the help of groups like Riverwatch and the Southern Rivers Catchment Authority.
“People from all over Australia have come to have a look.
“When I’m going to the island if there’s someone with me they ask who planted all those trees and I tell them I did. They’re always amazed, they can’t believe it.”
Former civil engineer Peter Jirgens has offered to take Mr Weir’s place on the project.
The pair met over a mangrove exchange. Mr Jirgens had leftovers and Mr Weir accepted his offer. It wasn’t long before Mr Weir spotted a successor in Mr Jirgens.
“You don’t know how happy I am to see this happening,” Mr Weir said.
While he is new to this project, Mr Jirgens has earned his stripes planting trees to prevent riverbank erosion.
Over the past two years he has been involved in a group which planted more than 300 trees near the Nowra Golf Club.
“Taking this on is a bit of a daunting task. There’s about seven kilometres of riverbanks Charlie’s worked on, and there’s always maintenance and other planting that needs to be done in the future. I’ve got some really good guys who are prepared to help. We’re planning on having a working bee once a month and if we can get 20 or 30 people I think we could achieve a lot,” he said.
Anyone who would like to become involved can phone Mr Jirgens on 0488 460 011.