For more than 35 years, Shirley Curran has enjoyed everything Blackbutt Forest Reserve has to offer.
The Oak Flats resident and her brother, Edward Lane, walk the forest’s tracks every morning as part of their exercise regime.
However, potential changes to the way the 250-hectare Blackbutt Forest will be managed have them worried.
Shellharbour City Council has four park rangers allocated full-time to manage the Blackbutt reserve and the 72-hectare Bass Point Reserve. However, these roles are under review as part of a restructure.
Ms Curran fears any reduction in the number of park rangers would affect the reserve.
‘‘The council employed four park rangers who have transformed this reserve into a place where you can feel comfortable and safe going for a walk,’’ she said.
‘‘It is now a place you would take your family for a day out.
‘‘They cleaned the place up, moved the riff-raff on and continue to maintain the reserve on a daily basis. ‘‘They all have knowledge about the flora and fauna and always gave you a friendly smile and a chat and assist anyway they can... without them this place would be a rubbish dump and we wouldn’t feel safe.’’
Ms Curran said people had expressed concerns bush-fire risks would increase without permanent park rangers. The reserve backs on to homes at Barrack Heights.
Ms Curran said she had been told four park rangers would be without a job by November. However, a council spokeswoman said no redundancy packages had been handed out.
‘‘Part of the proposal is the consolidation of the senior park ranger position and the natural areas supervisor position,’’ the spokeswoman said.
‘‘We are awaiting a response from staff representatives before making any final decisions.
‘‘It is proposed that the natural areas supervisor will manage all reserves across the city.’’
Concerns have also been raised that changes would affect the heritage values of Bass Point, which was placed on the State Heritage Register earlier this year.
‘‘Council recognises the importance of the natural and heritage assets of its parks and reserves throughout the city and will continue to provide internal resources and collaborate with external authorities to ensure the protection of these assets,’’ the spokeswoman said.
‘‘The redistribution of staff or alteration to staff roles are only considered when there is an over riding benefit to the community.’’