THE Mount Gambier Railway Lands precinct could be transformed into a thriving tourist hotspot and act as a gateway to the Blue Lake if a bold proposal by two prospective city councillors gains traction.
Businessmen Max Bruins and Ben Hood – both vying for positions on Mount Gambier City Council – have developed a plan which includes restoring the existing station building to become the city’s new visitor information centre and transport terminal.
The proposal would see a section of existing grassland designated for recreational vehicle and caravan parking on Bay Road, the old station platform transformed into a bus terminal, addition of electric charging stations and an undercover walkway from the new car park area to the rail station.
Mount Gambier Chamber of Commerce vice president Mr Hood said the east end of the precinct had become “dead space” since it was opened three years ago.
“The Rail is a huge open space and an absolute wind tunnel during winter and events have dropped off significantly in the last year or two,” he said.
“The rundown railway station building is just sitting there in the middle taking up space – it’s a piece of the city’s history not being used effectively.”
Tourism Mount Gambier member Mr Bruins said the heritage-listed building, with its proximity to the Blue Lake, had tremendous potential as a visitor space.
“I read with interest the comments of National Trust chief executive Dr Darren Peacock in last Friday’s edition of The Border Watch, who said ‘the combination of attractive open space and activated heritage buildings is one of the most successful formulas of generating tourism visitation in the world’,” he said.
“The Rail is centrally located and so close to our popular Valley Lakes precinct.
“With the addition of RV and caravan parking, it would be the perfect spot for tourists and visitors to stop, relax, recharge and plan their Mount Gambier visit.”
Mr Bruins said reigniting the debate to relocate the city’s information centre building and adjoining bus terminal was a positive step for the city’s future.
“When visitors stop at the Lady Nelson, all they get is a view of a busy highway and a big car park,” he said.
“All the infrastructure is there at The Rail and the existing platform would make an ideal bus terminal.
“If all our visitor services were located at The Rail, tourists can begin their Mount Gambier visit at a central location, with main street shopping and the Blue Lake just a short walk away.
“It makes sense to unite the city’s tourism assets.”
Mr Hood said the proposal, which is still in development, was designed to complement the work completed by the council at the former industrial site.
“This plan would showcase The Rail and the railway trail – two of council’s success stories – and open them up to a wider audience,” he said.
“It will provide an incentive for tourists to visit the city’s central business district, which is in dire need of support right now.
“We have to show Mount Gambier is open for business, otherwise tumbleweeds may be rolling through Commercial Street in the future.”
Mr Hood said the sale of the existing visitor information site could help cover the cost of the relocation.
“The Lady Nelson would be a great asset for a museum or themed restaurant on the Jubilee Highway site or she could move to The Rail.”
Both Mr Bruins and Mr Hood said they would continue to generate ideas and discussion around the city’s future direction, regardless of whether they were elected to the council.
“Bold thinking and big ideas are what is needed for the Blue Lake city to move forward,” Mr Bruins said.