Victorian Alpine Huts survey, for Parks Victoria 1994-5.
In late 1947 the Tallangatta & District Ski Club sought permission to erect a cabin 200-300′ below the summit of Mt Wills, involving some clearing of alpine ash for the site and associated ski runs. The cabin would be of log and measure around 40’x20’x15′ high. The club claimed itself a bona-fide sporting organisation, non profit and affiliated with the Federation of Victorian Ski Clubs. Tom Dunlop of Tallangatta was the club secretary and he sought aid from the local parliamentarian, Tom Mitchell MLA to speed up approvals to allow construction before the 1948 snow season DCNR file 73/1196 19.12.47, 13.1.48. The Upper Murray Chief Forester, R Marshall, responded to the application stating that the site was in open snow gum country and he had no objection. The timber could be obtained from low grade alpine ash in the area and at no charge as long as the hut was made available for forestry officers. Clearing the ski runs would mean removal of snow gums but these were not thought to be useful milling timber in any case. The new track needed would provide a useful fire break ibid. 23.12.47. A further proposal by the club described the materials as secondhand milled ash, pine floors and iron roofing. This hut was planned to be built as soon as possible on a second lower site (4900′) as a base for day visits to the area. Another cabin, on the first site higher up the mountain, was planned for longer term accommodation but would not be built in the near future ibid.12.1.48. Further information from the club revealed that the first hut built would be temporary, being one of Dunstan’s mill huts reused on a site a little further up the mountain from that applied for. This allowed the alpine ash to be spared in favour of clearing snow gums ibid. report 27.1.48. Water would come via a race from a creek to the west and the only materials needed from the site would be snow gums, for the blocks. A permissive occupancy was recommended. As for the higher site, clearing of about 4-5 chain, between two sphagnum moss beds, was needed to make the future hut safe from fire ibid.. Official approval was made by telegram, noting the need to shift the site out of the ash belt. This was March 1948, allowing some time for work on the hut before snow. The rental was 5/- per year per site. Conditions included no occupation without permission during the summer unless a dugout was provided as was normal for forestry operations ibid. 16.3.48. The license was dated 1.4.1948 ibid. lic. num. 2004. Another telegram described the hut as a one room cabin 30’x18′ in round foot ash logs, 8 ‘ high walls, stone chimney in the rear, 2 large windows in front, one side door, an iron hipped roof, hardwood floor and a Hygeia Disholvenator for septic disposal ibid. 18.3.48. This was varied yet again to a split slab hut 30′ x 15′ wide which meant that 90 1′ snow gum bed logs and 8′ split ash for the walls were needed: most of the remaining timber was to be sawn while only 5 posts would be needed. No royalties were to be charged for the snow gum as long as the hut could be used by officers during summer ibid. 22.3.48 report. This last description matches more closely the existing hut, west end. By 1972 the club was being reformed, one result being the loss of the hut license through non payment of rent. The new secretary, Mrs Dawn Madin, noted that a lot of work had been done on the hut and the club now sought renewal of the license ibid.23.5.73. Office bearers for that year included Mike Townsend as president, Keith and Mike Paton, and Regina Townsend. The license was renewed on $4/annum ($10 by 1978, $35 by 1987). This was when the ski tow was first alluded to. The club made reference to the `Top Hut’ or summit hut at Mt Wills in the 1980s, noting that the gate was locked to the track stopping their use of skidoos to gain access in winter. This was result of conservation measures which sought to revegetate the track and the club was informed that the hut was refuge only during the winter. During a review of leases in the early 1990s the valuer general valued this hut site at $400/annum At the same time, the club had drawn up major extensions to the hut but wanted the rent to remain the same and the lease period to be extended ibid.30.10.90 plans also. Despite the drawing showing a large extension to one end of the original hut, the department thought that the renovations were to take place within the existing roofline and were surprised when they noted footings being dug beyond the hut wall line. The club had a shire building permit but no departmental approval. Confusion appears to have existed as to what was existing and what was not, with the original 1948 section having been apparently extended by some 50% by the date of the application. Despite policy against enlarging the hut, the renovations eventually went ahead by replacement of a skillion section added to the side of the hut with a new two level gabled roof bay, approved in 1991 and commenced in 1992. The skillion (or flat) roofed carport used for the over-snow vehicles was also renewed in the early 1990s, with a former CFA building (rural truck shed); again despite some confusion over the club’s permission to use this type of vehicle in the area ibid.18.7.91. The new building would offer another vehicle bay but this would be used for refuge. Recently, some controversy has surrounded the use of the hut by the Charles Sturt University for their fieldwork excursions, prompting the club to consider restriction of the hut’s use ibid. letter 19.11.92. A plaque has been placed out the front of the hut to commemorate the life of Mike Townsend (past President), who was accidentally killed in 1983 Carroll.