APOLLO BAY district residents want Parks Victoria to reopen picturesque tourist site Marriner’s Falls, and will protest for the reopening on Thursday.
Apollo Bay’s Frank Buchanan is hoping 100 people will meet at the entrance to the falls walking track to show support for a community campaign to force the tourist attraction’s reopening.
Mr Buchanan says the community, particularly tourism businesses, want Marriner’s Falls open to the public and Parks Victoria’s lack of maintenance of the tourist drawcard was unacceptable.
But a Parks Victoria spokesman says visitor safety is a priority and the risk of serious injury is “extreme” at the falls.
“Parks Victoria closed Marriner’s Falls in 2011 due to significant safety concerns with trees regularly falling at the visitor site,” the spokesman said.
“In September 2008 a visitor to Marriner’s Falls was seriously injured by a falling tree while standing at the base of the falls,” he said.
“Since the closure of the track approximately 60 trees have fallen across the walking track, ranging from 15 centimetres to 80 centimetres in diameter.
“It suffered additional flood damage in August 2011 and then again in August 2012, which resulted in further significant damage to the track due to washouts, and a large number of fallen trees across the track.
“Parks Victoria has independent expert advice that the risk of serious injury to visitors to Marriner’s Falls is extreme,” the Parks Victoria spokesman said.
“Due to the steep nature of the site, the dense vegetation and the usually wet conditions, it is not practical to assess the stability of the trees in the valley leading up to the falls.”
But Mr Buchanan said the 1.8-kilometre track to the falls was no more dangerous and he disputed the Parks Victoria claim that “60 trees” had fallen across the track.
“I don’t believe that, it’s rubbish, but perhaps we’ll count them on Thursday,” he said.
“Of course the track needs maintenance but that should be part and parcel of their commitment to tourism.
“Our local Parks people do a great job but the Parks policy at state level is ridiculous.”
Mr Buchanan said it was time for the community and tourism industry to push for the reopening before Parks Victoria dismantled infrastructure.
“If we don’t go hard now the falls will be closed forever,” he said.
Mr Buchanan, who is a Colac Otway Shire councillor and meets regularly with Apollo Bay residents, said public safety was a serious issue but the need for maintenance was no different at Marriner’s Falls than other Otways’ waterfalls and walking tracks.
The Parks Victoria spokesman said Parks Victoria would continue to “work closely with local tourism providers and government to ensure that waterfalls in the Great Otway National Park remains a spectacular visitor attraction into the future”.
Mr Buchanan urged people to rally at the Marriner’s Falls picnic area at noon on Thursday.