Wangetti Walk and Bike trail is eco friendly claims Council
Douglas Shire mayor Julia Leu has rebuffed claims by conservationists that the development of the 76km, $21.25 million Wangetti Trail will expose the conflict between tourism dollars and development.
The bike and walking trail will link Palm Cove and Port Douglas, two iconic Tropical North Queensland regions, giving national and international visitors yet another reason to further explore this destination.
An economic study, which formed part of the initial concept plan, estimated 28,000 mountain bikers and walkers will use the trail annually, generating an estimated input of $10.4 million a year for the region.
“Development of the proposed Wangetti Trail within the National Park is restricted to the trail and some camping/hut sites,” said Cr Leu.
“The trail offers much more than a chase for tourism dollars as it will provide recreational prospects and experiences for our community, employment, traditional owner opportunities, the ability to attract new events and the flow on benefits to the region.”
According to a report in the Weekend Australian, there is a belief that although many believe the trail will have minimal impact on the environment, others have chosen to differ.
“The trail concept is a partnership between two local governments (Douglas and Cairns), the State Government, National Parks and the Wet Tropics Management Authority.
“We are hopeful the Federal Government will also become a partner. The trail alignment is designed to avoid particularly sensitive areas and the construction will minimise environmental impact whilst providing a wilderness experience that incorporates the beauty of two world heritage areas,” said Cr Leu.
Cr Leu said the trail will provide jobs in the construction phase and ongoing employment including for Traditional Owners of the country.
“The trail is 1000-1500mm in width and will have minimal environmental impact but will generate enormous social, recreational employment and economic benefit.”
In May this year, Tourism Tropical North Queensland (TTNQ) Chair Wendy Morris welcomed the State Government’s announcement that it would fund a design and business case to develop the Wangetti Trail as a top 10 Australian track.
“This 76km trail will provide walkers and mountain bike riders with a bushland and coastal experience showcasing the beauty of the Wet Tropics and giving breath-taking views of the Great Barrier Reef,” she said.
In response to conservationists’ concerns regarding the spread of ecotourism activities and a warning that the "privatisation of national parks" will come at an inevitable cost, Cr Leu said National Parks are public land and need to provide ability for all types of people to experience them.
“Private arrangements provide an avenue to provide an experience that is desired by many people, but also give an economic benefit which includes for the National Park and the trails and other infrastructure in them to be properly constructed and maintained.
“Too often public assets can suffer without the correct investment and private investment done properly can provide this,” she said.
Conservationists are also not convinced council risk-minimisation measures will be enough to outweigh the commercial impacts (of trails like the Wangetti).
Leu said 95 per cent of the proposed Wangetti Trail is on State Government land therefore risk minimisation measures for the project are the responsibility of the State Government.
“Council is a partner and an advocate for the trail. Numerous risk mitigation measures that are used for trails of this type that the State Government will need to address include appropriate alignment, engineering, trail construction techniques, environmental approvals, procurement and contracts, to name a few,” she said.
Douglas Shire Council has been working with Cairns Regional Council to formulate a joint project working group including stakeholders from Cairns Regional Council, State and Federal Government officers and traditional owners.
The project working group has been tasked with identifying potential funding for the design, construction and management of the trail and investigating marketing and promotional opportunities.
It is uncertain when work will begin and a completion date.
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