Bushwalk the ‘Gong founder Jenae Johnston loves exploring the Illawarra’s favourite and lesser-known walking trails.
The thousands of people who have flocked to her Facebook page in the last year also enjoy seeing her bushwalking adventures.
So much so, Mrs Johnston was all set to go out on her own and run group walks before a ‘’mutually beneficial’’ partnership with the National Parks Association (Illawarra Branch) was struck.
‘’My site went viral I think because it is a good resource to find out about any new walks or existing walks that might be a bit harder to find or hear about,’’ the 39-year-old mother of two from Mangerton said.
‘’A lot of people contacted me about doing group walks and I was looking down the avenue of doing my own business….but it is a bit hard to ask people to pay for a walk which is essentially free anyway.
‘’It was around those times when I was having those doubts that NPA contacted me and said they liked what I was doing and wanted to talk. It just progressed from there.’’
NPA Illawarra president Graham Burgess said the partnership provided a ‘’great opportunity’’ to attract more young people to bushwalking and nature conservation in the region.
’’Jenae used her initiative and talent to launch a program of walks that are targeted at a different group from ours. She's gathered an amazing number of supporters and set up an excellent Facebook page and blog,’’ Mr Burgess said.
Almost 4000 social media followers have checked out Mrs Johnston’s photography, videos and detailed blogs about the Illawarra's natural landscapes.
The partnership will widen the participation and reach of one of the state's largest bushwalking and conservation organisations. It will also bring a popular local initiative under the umbrella of the NPA’s resources.
The social media incorporation is still in its early stages but the two bodies plan on having some active cross-over, including advertising of NPA events and providing conservation commentary on Bushwalk the ‘Gong’s posts.
‘’As we work together we'll be able to share knowledge and expertise by providing accurate information and education to locals,’’ Mrs Johnston said.
‘’More people will then be able to make informed decisions about the local environment, its preservation and general appreciation and enjoyment.’’