PLANS are underway to add an element of thrill to a visit to the popular local attraction of Agnes Falls, long recognised for its outstanding natural beauty. At present the waterfall, located in Agnes Falls Scenic Reserve, about 12 kilometres north of Toora and Welshpool, can currently only be viewed in part. It is quite a sight, especially after heavy rain, but such is the topography, there is no way to take in the complete view from the top of the falls to where the water plunges to the valley floor 60 metres below.
As Gerard Delaney from Parks Victoria explained in a public presentation to South Gippsland Shire Council last Wednesday, Parks Victoria, which manages Agnes Falls Scenic Reserve, is keen to realise the full tourism potential of the falls once the current improvements are completed. A new picnic shelter is currently under construction, along with a new toilet block, and some picnic tables are going in, too.
Mr Delaney, who is Ranger in Charge of Marine and Coastal Parks in South Gippsland, introduced Glenn Berrill from Thompson Berrill Landscape Design, who took councillors through the exciting concept design for a spectacular cantilevered lookout structure at the falls. The planned structure would project out over the edge of the escarpment by several metres. It would include a solid hardwood deck surface with a section of mesh and would allow visitors to experience spectacular panoramic views of Agnes Falls and the dramatic gorge, and yet the design, claims Mr Berrill, “nestles into the landscape”. Mr Berrill said the structure would offer a thrilling and yet safe visitor experience, providing amazing ‘over the edge’ views of the waterfall. For added thrills, visitors could choose to walk over a see-through section of mesh.
“You’ll be enveloped in the view,” promised Mr Berrill, adding that the opportunity for such “immersion in the waterfall environment” was unique in Victoria. He said that the lookout would strengthen and complement the existing experience at Agnes Falls, already admired as the largest single span falls in Victoria. It would also provide a complementary tourism product to other regional tourist destinations, such as Wilsons Promontory.
Mr Delaney said the project was costed at about $400,000. A grant of $300,000 will be sought from Regional Development Victoria, which supplies funding on a 3:1 basis, with the remaining $100,000 hopefully coming from the shire. The shire’s director of development services, Phil Stone, said that the project falls under the Corner Inlet capital infrastructure budget and money had been set aside. He said that Regional Development Victoria had expressed some enthusiasm verbally for the project, but it would still be necessary to put in a detailed proposal and apply for the necessary funding. Cr Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks suggested approaching Tourism Victoria for financial assistance, too. In summing up, the mayor, Cr Jim Fawcett, said he thought it was a very exciting project and he, for one, would be very pleased to have a lookout in place from which the entire falls could be seen.
Kathy Whelan from the Friends of Agnes Falls encouraged councillors to visit the falls if they had not already done so. She said there would be an Open Day and working bee at the falls on May 4, by which date the latest improvements should have been completed. She is a frequent visitor to the falls and said that she is rarely there alone. Almost invariably there are tourists there, often from interstate or overseas. She handed out postcards (printed with the support of the Toora and District Community Bank Branch of Bendigo Bank) depicting Agnes Falls in their scenic splendour. The postcards, along with a social media campaign via Facebook, are helping spread the word about Agnes Falls in an effort to boost tourist numbers to this region.