PARKS Victoria will reopen Tidal River in Wilsons Promontory National Park on September 23, in time for the school holidays. Camping will be permitted and most of the roofed cabin accommodation will be available for the first time since devastating floods caused widespread damage across the park in March this year. Some of the most popular walking tracks will reopen, too.
Deputy Premier and Member for Gippsland South Peter Ryan joined Parks Victoria staff, tourism operators and local government representatives at the Prom last Friday to announce the date for the much anticipated reopening of “the heartland of the Prom” as Mr Ryan termed Tidal River.
“This is a great day for all of us,” Mr Ryan said, remarking how proud he is to represent the electorate which includes Wilsons Promontory and acknowledging how important the Prom is to the local economy.
The chair of Prom Country Regional Tourism, Catherine McGlead, was among invited guests at Tidal River to hear the announcement of the reopening and didn’t hide her delight.
She said: “It’s exactly what the local industry needs. It’s been a long and difficult winter for tourism business operators since the southern section of the Prom closed, especially those around Corner Inlet. Even though the northern section has been open, people have been less inclined to visit South Gippsland knowing that they can’t access all of the Prom.”
Bronwen Osborn, who with husband Andrew runs Limosa Rise luxury accommodation at Yanakie, was similarly thrilled.
“I’m delighted,” she said. “We’ll be sending a newsletter out to our database to let people know that the Prom is reopening. We’ll also let people know about the forthcoming wildflower walks.”
Even before Tidal River reopens on September 23, Parks Victoria will be holding a series of wildflower walks in the northern section of the Prom. Places are filling fast for these free ranger guided walks to be held at 2pm on September 3, 4, 17 and 18. For bookings and enquiries phone 13 1963.
It was in recognition of the importance of the Prom that the Coalition government of which Mr Ryan is a part contributed $8.8 million immediately after the floods to get the repair work underway. More money soon followed.
“The reopening of Tidal River village and camping facilities is great news for Gippsland, families, campers and all lovers of nature,” said Mr Ryan. “Two hundred and fifty camping spots will be available at Tidal River as well as some roofed cabin accommodation, and the Visitor Centre will also be up and running to provide information about what is accessible and what is still under repair.”
Mr Ryan paid tribute to the Parks Victoria staff who were, he said, in some cases nothing short of heroic in their actions on the night the flooding rains struck Tidal River.
“It will become part of the folklore of the Prom how the staff managed!” he said.
He said it had been an enormous task to assess the extent of the damage and get Tidal River reopened and he congratulated Parks Victoria and VicRoads staff and the various contractors for working so hard to make this happen.
Parks Victoria Eastern Regional Manager Chris Rose thanked Mr Ryan for his personal commitment to getting Tidal River reopened.
He said that it had taken a combined effort from Parks Victoria, VicRoads, South Gippsland Shire and Victoria Police to cope with the flood and its aftermath and prepare the Prom for reopening.
Driving down to Tidal River, the forty or so invited guests at last Friday’s announcement were able to observe firsthand the mammoth repair effort that has gone into the Prom since the floods and accompanying landslides, including a new section of road bridge installed by VicRoads contractors over the Darby River and an even bigger section of new road on Darby Saddle.
Meanwhile, Tidal River is being readied for visitors. Refurbishments to the Tidal River Visitor Centre and flood damaged accommodation are running to schedule and flood damaged underground electrical cable replacements and stormwater drain upgrades are nearly complete. Fourteen of the seventeen eco cabins were damaged by the floods and the opportunity was taken to give all the cabins a refurbishment. Only one of the group lodges sustained damage and none of the wilderness retreats was affected. Planting and reseeding works are being undertaken in the campground, and out in the park, the tracks crew has been working hard to complete flood recovery works on the Lilly Pilly Gully Nature Walk and the Tidal Overlook Track to Squeaky Beach.
Camping and accommodation bookings for the September to December period reopened on Monday. Bookings for 2012 will open on September 7.
The roadblock on Promontory Rd (near the airfield) will remain in place until Tidal River reopens, so Promontory Road south of the roadblock remains closed until September 23. While major road works are nearly complete, the closure will allow minor road works to continue and enable heavy vehicles and machinery to access Tidal River to undertake necessary works without interference.
The Tidal River Store will remain closed until Melbourne Cup weekend, but basic supplies will be available to visitors, and there will be an exciting interpretation program and Junior Ranger activities over the September school holidays.
SHORT WALKS AND BEACH ACCESS
Visitors will be able to access Norman Beach, Tongue Point and Fairy Cove and some favourite walking tracks in the Tidal River precinct including Lilly Pilly Gully, South Norman Beach, Squeaky Beach (via Picnic Bay or Lilly Pilly Gully car park and Tidal Overlook) and Picnic Bay. Walks in the northern Prom will also be open.
Many track closures will remain, however, whilst extensive repair works and possible track alignments are undertaken. These include: walking tracks in the southern Prom, all overnight hiking tracks, Squeaky Beach and Whisky Bay car parks and beach access tracks, Darby River beach access track, Cotters Lake, Pillar Point, Picnic Point, Mt Bishop and Mt Oberon. Mt Oberon Rd also remains closed until necessary road repairs have been carried out.
Changed river conditions have meant that in the interests of public safety access to the Tidal River watercourse will not be permitted until further notice. The closure includes the river, river mouth, river access tracks, Tidal River Bridge, Tidal River boat ramp, Loo Errn boardwalk and fishing platforms and all walks departing from Tidal River Bridge. Due to safety concerns, boat launching will not be permitted from Tidal River and Norman Bay until further notice.
Parks Victoria will continue to keep the public informed as the staged reopening of tracks continues.
VOLUNTEER WITH FRIENDS OF THE PROM
For those keen to help with flood recovery works, the Friends of the Prom are coordinating voluntary flood recovery works and invite members of the public to join them on the following days for the tasks indicated:
September 10 and 11: Planting out mature nursery stock in Tidal River, also drainage and pruning works on the Picnic Bay access track and the link track from Picnic to Squeaky Beach.
October 22 and 23: Pruning and drainage works on the Loo Errn Track from Tidal River bridge to Tidal Block.
November 19 and 20: Hooded Plover monitoring, also in conjunction with Bushwalking Victoria, maintenance work on the “northern circuit” tracks.
For further information please contact Friends of the Prom President Don Jewell: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.friendsoftheprom.org.au.
For further information about the Prom, contact the Parks Victoria Information Centre on 13 1963 or visit www.parks.vic.gov.au