On any given day, scores of people are beating a path to Goulburn's riverwalk and wetlands as a welcome reprieve.
Fine sunny weather and COVID restrictions are fostering a renewed appreciation of the attractions.
Council data for the near 12km Wollondilly and Mulwaree River track shows a sharp rise in usage from mid-July to mid-August. The average number of pedestrians rose from just over 100 to about 225, while cyclists increased from 19 to just below sixty. The data is taken from the counter at the Joshua Street access.
In the nine months to August, 116 pedestrians and 33 cyclists on average used the walkway on weekdays. On weekends, this jumped to 147 and 46 respectively.
The surge isn't lost on volunteers at the Eastgrove wetland off May Street.
"A lot more people are using the riverwalk, including the new section from Lower Sterne Street to Cemetery Street," Friends of Goulburn Swamplands (FROGS) president Heather West said.
"People are parking their cars and walking. It's opening their eyes to the natural environment and some of the nice areas we have around Goulburn."
The walkway extension takes people past the Mortis Street and old Saint Saviour's cemeteries. Mrs West, who is also a Friends of Goulburn Historic Cemeteries volunteer, says many are also showing renewed interest in this valuable heritage.
But they're also enjoying the wetlands and a power of rejuvenation work at the former brick pits over many years.
"We are getting hugely positive comments from people," Mrs West said.
"They're amazed at the growth and say we're doing a great job. They've really noticed how much the area has changed."
Before COVID, tourists from Sydney, Canberra and elsewhere were making special trips to spend the day at the wetlands.
Signage explains the rich diversity of plant, bird and animal life. It's also a photographer's mecca, as Goulburn Field Naturalists president and FROGS volunteer, Frank Antram knows.
The former federal environment department staffer has been snapping "avian highlights" such as a Barn Owl visit on September 1.
A week later he found a Blue-billed duck hiding among the water weed. Listed as a vulnerable species, it only occasionally pops into the wetland.
"With the advent of spring, we are starting to see the return of some of the summer migrants, like Reed Warblers and Noisy Friarbirds, but many are yet to arrive," Mr Antram said.
"Our most celebrated and highly cryptic migrant, Latham's Snipe, does not usually arrive until late September or early October. This special bird travels all the way from Japan and the east coast of Russia (some 9,000km) where it breeds.
"It will spend the Australian summer months here before heading north again in time for the northern hemisphere spring in March/April. A satellite tagging program recently found a bird that flew non-stop for three days covering 7000km."
A pair of Australasian Grebes has built a nest at the wetlands.
A male Satin Bowerbird also has a new bower, decorated with blue objects, in which to dance, display and attract a female partner. They do not nest in the bower but build a nest nearby up in a tree.
Visitors are urged to watch for the "diminutive" black-fronted Dotterels that commonly nest on the ground in mulch or close to pathways and are difficult to spot.
On Wednesday, the eagle-eyed Mr Antram spotted a wood duck and its five ducklings.
If that's not enough, Mrs West says the roos are an added attraction.
"We tell international visitors that if they want to see kangaroos undisturbed in their natural environment, they can be certain of seeing them here," she said.
With the recent upsurge in local visitors, the volunteers only ask that people keep their dogs on leashes.
The added good news for cyclists, runners and walkers is that the council is planning a further walkway extension beyond Saint Saviour's Cemetery to link with the Joseph's Gate network.
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