A proposed ground-breaking development designed to showcase and protect the Boranup Forest and surrounds will be led by WA’s Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions in consultation with local groups, including the Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association. A definite time line for the Karri Bowl project, reported by the Times last month, was not yet available as project partners investigate funding and engineering works needed to shift about 3km of the Caves Road scenic drive away from the karri forest, widely considered under significant pressure from tourists. Local conservation groups including Nature Conservation Margaret River and the Friends of the Cape-to-Cape Track have given the project — which could cost tens of millions of dollars — their tick of approval, with support from the wider tourism sector too. As reported, the project would include precinct management, elevated walkways and eventually a significant interpretive centre to highlight the region’s history, geology, habitat, and Aboriginal heritage, with roles already identified for Wadandi custodians. A DBCA spokeswoman said DBCA was working closely with MRBTA on the early concept designs. “The Karri Bowl concept requires further planning and analysis work to be undertaken to more accurately determine opportunities, potential benefits and constraints,” DBCA said. Funding for the project was yet to be secured. MRBTA co-chief executive Steve Harrison said the project had “great potential to achieve positive environmental, social and economic outcomes, at a time when a source of new jobs will be more vital than ever”. The South West Development Commission, Tourism WA and Australia’s South West as well as community leaders were lending expert help to the project vision. MRBTA was unable to point to a significant project elsewhere to guide residents’ understanding of the concept, which initially sparked some residents’ concerns. But Mr Harrison said there was an urgent need to protect the karri forest — and also to “provide a drawcard for visitors who want to learn more and appreciate the rich culture, history and nature of the area”. Increased visitor numbers in recent weeks highlighted those risks. “That popular stretch of Caves Road was swarming with people whose cars filled the small carpark and lined the road,” Mr Harrison said. “People wandered all over the road despite the constant traffic and dangerous corners. “With no direction, people ambled throughout the forest itself, among magnificent karri trees that have sadly been vandalised over time due to the lack of visitor control, information and guidance.” Formal planning processes, including consultation, were also needed, Mr Harrison said. Nature Conservation chairman John Cresswell said the project was “an environmental game changer” addressing “the significantly depleted and much-loved national park which is suffering under the weight of hundreds of thousands of unmanaged visitors each year”.