Col was a keen bushwalker who introduced many to the joys of exploring our wild places, especially in the Morton National Park area, over many decades. As member of the then Central Branch of NPA Executive, he was involved in the push for establishment of the National Parks & Wildlife Service and for a period served on a Regional Advisory Committee. He was a member of NPA’s Executive Committee, including a period as Hon Treasurer, during the 60s and 70s. He was also active with the Coast and Mountain Walkers of NSW and a founding member of the Budawang Committee.
Col Watson, a skilled cabinet-maker and French polisher, started bushwalking in the 1940s. Based in Sydney, his favourite bushwalking haunt was the Budawang Range. He shared his love of bushwalking with many people over many years, and was still an active and social walker in his later years. As a keen bushwalker he worked hard to lobby for the creation of National Parks as a way of protecting natural areas for public use and enjoyment.
In 1958 Col became the Executive Officer of the NSW Federation of Bushwalking Clubs. In the 1960s he joined the Coast and Mountain Walkers Association of NSW, and served as President for a time. He founded The Budawang Committee in 1967. He served on the State Council and Executive Committee of NPA NSW during the 1960s and 70s. A key initiator in the proposal to establish Mimosa National Park, he remained involved with NPA through the Reserves and Park Management Committees into the early 1990s.
Col devoted a large amount of time promoting the Budawang Range as a bushwalking destination, working with others to compile detailed geographical information on the area, assisting George Eliot with the Budawang Range sketch map, and working through various organisations to campaign for what eventually became Budawang National Park. A submission was made to the Geographical Names Board for the naming of many features within the Budawang Range. The entry for Watson Pass in the NSW Geographical Names Register reads
This pass was found in 1962 by Colin Watson, OAM. The pass is unique in the fact that it drops 609 metres through clefts in two cliff lines, (upper and lower) from Folly Point into Hollands Gorge. Watson made a systematic exploration of the Budawang Range to help George Elliott compile a map of the Northern Budawang Range. [609 metres is a conversion of 2,000 feet]
During the 70s and 80s bushwalkers and conservationists were becoming increasingly aware of the impacts of high recreational use of natural areas. This was a time of changing attitudes for many bushwalkers, including Col. More emphasis began to be placed on management of recreation activities, and on the importance of protecting nature for its own sake, not just for human use. Col became a member of the Nowra District NPWS Advisory Committee.
Colin was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 1989 for services to conservation and bushwalking. The Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife named Colin Friend of the Century in 1999. An acknowledgement of this award appeared in the On the Track section of the April 2000 NPA Journal.
Colin Watson was known as a skilled bushman with a deep love of the bush and an untiring desire to see it protected.
Thanks to Bob Sneddon, Anne Reeves and Ian Donovan for input.