National parks lodges plan way off track

THE great thing about Victoria’s network of national parks is that they are, for the most part, pristine.

For hikers especially, the chance to get off the beaten track for a trek through the Victorian Alps or the Grampians for a wilderness experience is what makes the parks attractive.

Serious bushwalkers carry all their gear for multi-day hikes, camp, cook their own food and carry out all their rubbish.

Australia’s hiking trails are distinct from those in other parts of the world in that there is nothing out there in the way of infrastructure and hikers seek them out for that reason.

On the high country trails of north-eastern Victoria, there are a handful of former cattlemen’s huts that offer refuge in bad weather but that’s about it.

The same goes for the walkers’ tracks in the Grampians.

But all that might be about to change with a proposal for privately-operated hiker lodges for the Grampians designed to complement a new trail called the Grampians Peaks Trail covering 144 kilometres from Mount Zero to Dunkeld.

Up to seven lodges with showers and kitchens would be built and offered to private operators on 99-year leases.

According to the masterplan, the walk is expected to generate 32,000 visitor nights in 2015, increasing to more than 80,000 visitor by 2025, while the total number of walkers using the trail is expected to increase from 13,800 next year to more than 34,000 people by 2025.

The trail will go ahead with or without the lodges and the visitors will come regardless.

Lodges would detract from the hiking experience, take business away from existing accommodation and bed and breakfast options in the district and there is a real danger that once they are built pressure to expand will grow from the private interests running them.

Fast forward 20 or 30 years and what was once an untouched national park will be dotted with mini resorts.

No thanks.

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