THE excitement is palpable across the district with the imminent reopening of the southern section of Wilsons Promontory National Park, including Tidal River and many of the most popular walks.
The Member for Morwell and Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business, Russell Northe, will officially reopen the popular park on behalf of the Minister for Tourism and Major Events, Louise Asher, in a ceremony at Tidal River this Friday morning.
Local businesses are hopeful of bouncing back after a grim six months without South Gippsland’s main tourist attraction. Parks Victoria was forced to close much of the Prom in late March when torrential rains caused widespread damage.
It was in recognition of the importance of the Prom to the economy of the State, and South Gippsland in particular, that the Member for Gippsland South, Deputy Premier Peter Ryan, announced an injection of $8.8 million in government funding immediately after the floods to get the repair work under way. Since then more money has come though, and Parks Victoria, VicRoads and various contractors have put in a massive effort to rebuild roads, bridges and tracks and refurbish flooded buildings.
The northern section of the Prom – as far south as the airfield – has remained open for day visitors, but it is only from this Friday that visitors will once more be able to stay at the Prom. The reopening coincides with the start of the school holidays and a spokesperson for Parks Victoria said that there have been lots of bookings. She also expects to see lots of day visitors through the gates.
The principal of Foster-based holiday accommodation management and booking service Promaccom, Kate Fooke, greeted the news that Tidal River is reopening this Friday with a cheer.
“Word seems to have gotten out that visitors will be able to go right into Wilsons Promontory National Park again,” she said.
“Parks Victoria’s announcement certainly seems to be helping to restore the number of enquiries and bookings we usually receive at this time of the year.
“We’ve also been getting some calls from people wanting to know about camping in the park as well as about the state of the southern walking tracks.
“We had heard that there was to be a grand advertising campaign about the park reopening to run in the metropolitan press, though we haven’t seen much evidence of that, so it must be the grapevine and Prom devotees who are leading the charge back to South Gippsland.”
Georgia Wilson, who is deputy chair of local tourism authority Prom Coast Tourism, summed up the feelings of many when she said, “The reopening of the Prom is fantastic for the district. It has been noticeably quiet, in particular for the accommodation businesses, which in turn affects the rest of the community.”
Ms Wilson, who with husband Graeme runs Windy Ridge Winery at Foster, loves to visit the Prom whenever she can. She has been amazed to see the changes wrought to the landscape of the Prom. “Mother Nature is a fine sculptor. Come and see her handiwork!” she urged.
Over at Toora there will be a special celebration to mark the reopening of the Prom.
Rachel and Andrew Brown, who run Toora Tourist Park, are looking forward to hosting the Nine Network’s ‘Today Show’ next Wednesday.
“Steve Jacobs from the Today Show will be doing live weather crosses from the park every half hour from 6am to 9am,” explained Ms Brown. “Timed to coincide with the reopening of the Prom, it’s a great opportunity to showcase this beautiful area.”
She said that the closure of the Prom had had a decidedly detrimental effect on business. “It was not helped by adverse weather conditions and road closures, such as the closure of the highway between Sale and Yarram, so that there were fewer people travelling through.”
“Now, though, we have had terrific bookings for the school holidays and already for the summer.”
Toora Tourist Park is issuing an open invitation to anyone – if you don’t mind getting up early! – to come along next Wednesday between 6am and 9am for a pancake breakfast, a jump on the giant pillow and other fun activities highlighting the attractions of the Corner Inlet district. You might even get your face on TV!
WALKS AT THE PROM
From this Friday, in addition to the walks in the northern section of the Prom, visitors will be able to explore the following walking tracks near Tidal River:
- Lilly Pilly Gully Nature Walk;
- Picnic Bay;
- Picnic Bay to Squeaky Beach;
- Lilly Pilly Gully car park via Tidal Overlook to Squeaky Beach;
- Darby Saddle to Tongue Point;
- Darby River to Tongue Point.
The southern section day walks and all overnight hikes will remain closed while engineering assessments and necessary repair works are carried out, but these will gradually reopen as repairs are made over coming months. The Tidal River General Store remains closed, too, so campers must bring their own supplies – or shop at Yanakie, Fish Creek or Foster on their way through to the Prom. The general store will reopen for Cup Weekend.