Visitors halted by barrier
AS THE grey nomad season begins, Theodore locals are determined to make sure visitors know the town is open for business.
Newsagency owner Paul Fowkes said he had noticed fewer visitors than usual for the time of year, and he was concerned the dip could have flow-on effects for the rest of the season.
Mr Fawkes said barrier tape put up at the Junction Park Rest Area, a donation-based camp site popular with caravanners, was putting visitors off.
He said the tape went up across a section of the campground about a month ago in preparation for the construction of the extended tourist walkway, but the work had not yet started.
"Effectively it doesn't look inviting for tourists to stay there,” Mr Fowkes said.
"As soon as one pulls in and sees you can't park in the donation area ... and sees barrier tape, they turn around and go away.
"All these grey nomads they do talk to each other, if they say 'Theodore might be closed' others will say 'don't worry about it we'll go to the next location'.
"Last Monday afternoon, a group of 10 pulled up and left. Another group of seven stayed in the showgrounds; it's too far to walk to the pub, so they sat around their camp fire and didn't come into town and spend additional money.”
Visitor Information Centre chairman Peter Oelkers said Theodore relied dramatically on southerners visiting in the winter months.
"The small towns and the shops and businesses are struggling ... and we rely on those visitors coming though, and while they might not spend a lot of money every little bit helps,” he said.
Mr Oelkers said visitors had misunderstood the barrier tape at Junction Park, thinking the park was completely closed, and he even offered to put his own phone number on a sign at the park so he could explain the situation to travellers.
"We want it (the walkway) to happen and we don't want to disrupt other people's plans as well,” he said.
"I know it's not pleasant when you're camped up in an area with a bit of machinery beside you.
"The money that's going into the walkway is for locals too, not just grey nomads. It will support tourism, but lots of young mothers with babies want to go and use it too.”
Banana Shire Council said work on the track was due to begin yesterday. It is moving forward with construction of the pathway to ensure it is completed before the peak grey nomad season.
Mayor Nev Ferrier said the council was grateful they were able to secure funding for this project from the Works for Queensland program.
"Council did a fair bit of consultation with the community and the Theodore Chamber of Commerce to ensure the pathway was located along the route they determine provided the greatest benefit to residents and visitors alike,” Cr Ferrier said. The project should take about two weeks to complete, weather permitting.
Mr Fowkes said he was happy the path construction was moving ahead but frustrated it didn't happen sooner, and he felt there could have been a better communication process.
"We were left in the lurch without information,” he said.
"They put the tape up a month ago ... and to build it in the height of the grey nomad trek, it got my blood boiling.”