Major proposal for the Boranup

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
The ambitious tourism project will include relocating a 3km stretch of Caves Road.
Camera IconThe ambitious tourism project will include relocating a 3km stretch of Caves Road. Credit: MRBTA

The region’s peak tourism group wants to shift a 3km chunk of Caves Road inland as part of a multimillion-dollar project aiming to give greater access to the popular Boranup Forest.

A full funding figure for the “Karri Bowl” project is not yet known, but millions in State and Federal stimulus money would be sought for a major interpretive centre and to develop walkways connecting Giants Cave to the Boranup Cliffs via the forest.

The Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association would add the Karri Bowl proposal to the Unbeaten Tracks project, reported on by the Times earlier this year, integrating all the region’s disparate trails into one tourism-friendly network.

Unbeaten Tracks chairman and ex-South West Development Commission chairman Stuart Hicks said the first focus was on the “state-of-the-art” walkways, and discussions with Main Roads WA to shift a section of Caves Road out of the national park.

“This is a big thing,” he said.

“It’s (eventually) tens and tens of millions of dollars.”

The project footprint is on Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions land and has the support of WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson.

MRBTA co-chief executive Steve Harrison said a hub facility was a key feature of successful trail networks worldwide.

“There is currently almost no interpretation of the environmental and cultural history and values of this very special area,” he said.

“Human access isn’t managed or controlled. Locals and visitors find it difficult to appreciate the beauty and precious nature of the area.”

MRBTA was working with Main Roads, DBCA, and local Wadandi to get the project off the ground. The Times understands nearby megafauna would also be included in any centre built and that the project stands a good chance of winning pandemic stimulus funding.

“Our aim is to celebrate the cultural and environmental values of this section of forest ... whilst creating a world-class nature-based tourism attraction,” Mr Harrison said.

“An immersive and meaningful connection rather than a dangerous, unexpected glimpse of a forest from a car window with no interpretation or time to reflect.”

Mr Dawson described the “exciting proposals” as a “visionary approach to developing new tourism opportunities in the region” with “the potential to create new ways for visitors to experience the nature and culture of the region”.

He stressed the importance of Wadandi interpretation of the region’s history, which would include early settlement.

Mr Dawson said an existing DBCA master plan could guide connection for the Wadandi Track and Cape-to-Cape Track — with both to score major upgrades.

The master plan “also addresses protection and enhancement of the stunning karst features in the area, including the Giants Cave”.

Mr Harrison said trail access included boardwalks and elevated walkways to minimise damage to the forest, integrated with the Jarrahdene camp site.

Under the plan, Caves Road would shift east, allowing for revegetation and improved universal access to the section between Giants Cave and Boranup Drive.

“This project is one of those rare initiatives that has strong environmental, economic and social outcomes,” he said. “It has the potential to be one of the best forest interpretive experiences in Australia, if not the world.”

The Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park has the highest visitation of any DBCA attraction.

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