Camping expansion sparks fears for reserve’s future

May 23, 2022 BY

Apollo Bay Recreation Reserve will have a camping infrastructure upgrade finished this year. Photo: SUPPLIED

A “LAND grab” of Apollo Bay green space has frustrated residents who believe a camping infrastructure project is going ahead without adequate consultation.

The Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority (GORCAPA) is planning an expansion of Apollo Bay Recreation Reserve, which will deliver amenity upgrades and high-end glamping facilities for the site’s holiday park.

But locals are perplexed at the order of works, which would see construction start before the finalisation of a site masterplan, and are concerned at how the development will impact future community use.

Issues raised with draft plans include traffic concerns, impacts on long-term park tenants and user groups, and loss of open space between the recreation reserve oval and Gambier Street to the north.

Bay residents agree that upgrades to facilities such as amenity blocks and other camping infrastructure is overdue but insist wider consultation should happen before the reserve’s camping footprint increases.

“Everyone agrees something needs to be done at the caravan park and the facilities aren’t up to scratch,” Apollo Bay resident Jacinta Tobin said.

“The big dispute comes from wanting to climb up the hill in essentially a suburban area.

“The rec reserve is very important to the people who are the primary purpose of the rec reserve.”

Fourth-generation Apollo Bay man John Marriner said locals were shocked when plans were released before widespread engagement.

“I believe they’ve fallen well short of public consultation,” he said.

“There are generations of families that have worked on that rec reserve to make it what it is today.

“The focus seems to be on attracting tourists and putting money into GORCAPA’s pocket. It should not be at the expense of the recreation facilities that we have.”

The recreation reserve is home to a host of Apollo Bay sports clubs, including football-netball, cricket and tennis.

The Authority’s plan includes installation of new disability-accessible and glamping accommodation to the north-east of the current caravan park, while upgrading existing changing facilities, a picnic area, playground and kitchen.

It formed a community reference group (CRG) early this year of community members, user group representatives and disability advocates, but has failed to publicly reveal the make-up of the committee and result of meetings.

GORCAPA hosted meetings with the CRG and permanent residents before releasing a draft concept plan on March 11.

Residents who lived in the vicinity of the expansion and the wider community were invited to discuss the plans after their release.

The Authority said it would consider feedback received during recent weeks when presenting a revised plan at the end of this month, before kicking off construction in June.

“The first phase of this project will see a long-overdue upgrade to the campground ahead of the coming peak summer season.” GORCAPA CEO Jodie Sizer said.

“We have engaged, and will continue to engage, with the community on this project and we greatly appreciate the feedback we’ve had so far, which has helped shape how we will deliver the upgrade.”

GORCAPA said it will begin stage two of the project in “mid-2022”, which would create a 10-year vision for the reserve that accounts for the new infrastructure.