KI pioneers George and Joyce Lonzar honoured with plaque

George and Joyce Lonzar's contribution to the parks and wildlife of western Kangaroo Island was recognised on the weekend.

Natural Resources KI invited the Lonzar family out to Flinders Chase National Park on Saturday, April 13, where a plaque in their honour was unveiled.

The discovery walk from the visitor centre to the Black Swamp area was also renamed the Lonzar Discovery Walk in their honour.

Saturday also just happened to be Joyce's 93rd birthday and this milestone her lifetime commitment to the Chase was also celebrated.

Kangaroo Island Mayor Michael Pengilly unveiled the plaque in recognition of the Lonzars and their significant contribution to parks and wildlife of Kangaroo Island.

After the unveiling, George and Joyce, family members and rangers returned to the Black Swamp lookout for light refreshments and a cake made especially for Joyce's 93rdbirthday.

Mr Lonzar said it was a great honour to have the plaque and trail named in their honour.

He moved to Kangaroo Island in 1948 when his aunt Lucy married Clem Edwards at Grassdale Station, at what is now Kelly Hill Caves.

He first met Joyce at South West River where the locals used to go for rest and relaxation.

"We never felt isolated down this way, we were too busy working seven days a week and then the Soldiers Settlers came and we had a real sense of community."

He paid tribute to the original Flora and Fauna Board members, whose scientists and managers kept them involved in various wildlife projects.

He recalled finding some unique wildlife including an white echidna and also participating in several rescues of lost people and children.

There were also several tragic incidents of people falling to their deaths at Remarkeable Rocks, and he said they kept in touch with some of the families of the deceased for many years.

Natural Resources KI regional director Damian Miley officiated at the unveiling of the plaque. He told the story of how George and Joyce became so connected to Flinders Chase National Park.

On April 17,1950, George took up the position as the third ranger at Flinders Chase at the rate of pay of six pound, 8 shillings. His boss, Harry Hansen was the ranger-in-charge, who had a beautiful daughter, Joyce.

In 1951, George married Joyce Hansen and they commenced married life in the old Rocky River homestead.

In 1958, George, with a little help from his neighbours, built his family a new home out of hand made concrete bricks.

The third ranger's house was to the west of the existing two houses, and slightly east of where the plaque is located. George also rebuilt the old Rocky River homestead, known as May's Cottage, to what it is today.

Under the rangers' care, and with the personal help of several Flora and Fauna Board members, the park began to prosper.

With little government money for improvements, George prioritised his work and over the years put in boundary fences, extensive firebreaks, roads and camping facilities to support growing visitation.

At the start of his employment as a ranger, visitation to the park was around 2000 visitors. By the time George retired annual visitation had increase to 25,000. Today visitation to Flinders Chase exceeds 130,000 per year.

As visitation increased, George and Joyce stepped up, operating a post office and meteorological station, providing a telephone service, selling cool drinks and small deli items and providing morning and afternoon tea.

Demand for lunches from bus tours saw Joyce cooking barbecues and actively supporting the growing tourism industry generated by Flinders Chase.

And if an animal was injured, whether it be a Cape Barren goose, kangaroo, wallaby, emu, brush turkey, platypus or a koala, Joyce would be nurturing the animal back to health.

In 1971 their son Peter was killed in a motor accident - he was only 16 and was training to be a park ranger.

The plaque that was mounted in Flinders Chase Visitor Centre dedicated to Peter, joins the new plaque unveiled on the weekend in acknowledgement of the outstanding contribution they have made to the National Parks and Wildlife Service of Kangaroo Island.

"In 1974, Flinders Chase became part of the National Park and Wildlife Service reserves and George became responsible for the management of Kelly Hill Caves, Cape Torrens and for a period, Seal Bay. And together George and Joyce rose to the challenge," Mr Miley said.

"For their dedicated service not only to conservation, tourism, and community, George and Joyce have received many awards including an OAM for George, and it is fitting that in this hundredth year of Flinders Chase we recognise the couple who contributed so much to the early development of the Chase."

George retired from Flinders Chase in 1984, after 34 years of dedicated service to the park.

But while this may have ended their official service, both maintained their dedication to the Chase.

George continued his work through the National Parks and Wildlife Service advisory board and Friends of Parks.

George officially resigned from the Friends of Parks group in July 2004.

"George's on ground work, humour, anecdotes and vast historical knowledge of the western end of Kangaroo Island was greatly appreciated by all," Mr Miley said.

Comments