DRASTIC and expensive penalties could be the only way to deter ignorant walkers from climbing the 1000 Steps when the park is closed on high fire danger days, a local CFA captain says.
Tow-away zones and wheel clamping were ideas floated by Upper Ferntree Gully CFA captain Pete Smith to help curb persistent walkers. Authorities say walkers who ignore park closures are endangering their own lives, and those of emergency staff who may have to rescue them.
Mr Smith said he wanted 'no standing' signs installed on both sides of Mt Dandenong Tourist Road, where many people park.
For motorists ascending the mountain, the left-hand side already has 'no standing" signs installed and parking on the opposite side is also illegal in many parts because there are double lines or a single unbroken line.
Walkers park along the road even when the car park is open, often because the spaces fill up early. But Mr Smith wasn't confident signs would stop illegal parkers.
"Signs are only for people who want to read," he said. "They're not interested. They are too eager and want to park as close as possible."
Mr Smith said the CFA and other stakeholders — including Parks Victoria, Ambulance Victoria, police and local residents — would meet at the end of the fire season to discuss future initiatives to discourage people from entering the park when it was shut.
Mr Smith said Parks Victoria was doing its best to upgrade signage across the Dandenong Ranges National Park, but most rangers were occupied with the fire threat during the warm weather.
He also acknowledged that if there was too much signage, the area would lose the character for which national parks were renowned.
Mr Smith denied wheel clamping would be a safety hazard if there were an incident at the popular fitness trail. "Why are they parked there in the first place? They're just thinking of themselves," he said. "We've got to come up with a way to stop them."
Members of the Upper Ferntree Gully CFA were at the local shopping strip last weekend, informing residents about the dangers of entering the park on a high fire danger day.