Tourism operators in Eden are thrilled with news the state government will invest $8million into the Light to Light Walk.
The three-day hike between Boyd’s Tower and Green Cape Lighthouse is one of several walks slated for improvement in the $630million announcement for NSW national parks.
This week’s announcement was met with optimism, with a touch of hesitation, by tour operators including Tim Shepherd and Jenny Robb, both of whom run tours along the Light to Light track.
Mr Shepherd, who along with Paul Pincini operates Light2Light Coastal Walks, said the investment was “potentially fantastic”.
“Spending that amount is a great chance to put Light to Light on the map,” Mr Shepherd said.
“It’s the right amount to the right job and do it well.
“It’s [the investment] what we need to move beyond a summer beach holiday destination. Our strong experience – even over the relatively short time we’ve been in operation – is that the shoulder times of spring and autumn is when the walk gets lots of use.
“So this is a great opportunity for the whole town and tourism in this region.”
Ms Robb, from Light to Light Camps and president of the Eden Chamber of Commerce, was also thrilled with the news, however said she would reserve judgement until it was made clear exactly on what the money would be used.
“What I’m hopeful for is job creation,” she said this week.
“The government has made serious staff cuts to national parks and we’re noticing the results here around Eden with campground upkeep and track maintenance.
“Hopefully they will match this funding commitment with the proper level of staffing required to maintain it.”
Both Mr Shepherd and Ms Robb were all for opportunities to open up Light to Light to a larger market, provided it didn’t detract from what makes the walk unique in the first place.
“I don’t think I’d want it so accessible that it had potential to ruin the experience for walkers,” Ms Robb said.
“To be on Mowarry Beach alone is amazing and part of the wonderful experience. This is a unique place. We need to make sure it remains that way.
“I’m a big advocate for nature-based tourism, as long as it’s managed correctly.”
Mr Shepherd said his guests were all “incredibly positive” about the Light to Light experience, with its remote and varied natural landscape right along the route.
He said providing accommodation options separate from commercial campgrounds could actually add to the sense of remoteness and exclusivity.
“It’s been done elsewhere in Australia with great success,” he said, referring to several multi-day hiking routes in Tasmania as examples.
“The advantage we have is we’re halfway between Sydney and Melbourne and the track itself has relatively gentle grades.
“Light to Light can be the one that’s most accessible to the most people – we’ve had mid-teens to mid-70s and everyone can do it.
“This can really make the walk a whole lot better.”