The much touted ‘Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing’ has received a substantial injection of funds in order to increase visitation.

The Border Mail reports that

on the Falls to Hotham track, starting the descent to Cobungra Gap
on the Falls to Hotham track, starting the descent to Cobungra Gap

An $800,000 upgrade to the 37-kilometre trek has been completed and Benalla MP Bill Sykes launched it as one of Victoria’s iconic walks at the weekend.

The upgrade includes camping platforms at Cope and Dibbins Hut, signage and track development.

“The camping platforms maintain the vegetation in the area because they are elevated so people can pitch their tents without degradation,” he said.

“It’s also more comfortable for campers because there will be a breeze from below in the summer time and in the event it rains they are not going to get a wet backside.”

Dr Sykes also announced $50,000 of funding from the Victorian Regional Growth Fund to create a master plan for the next stage of the upgrade.

He said it could include looking at accommodation options along the track.

“There are people like me who are very happy to put in the kilometres during the day but would like a comfy bed at night,” he said.

“Some are happy to rough it with a stretcher and a sleeping bag but then there are others who are happy to be out in the elements but have the comforts of home.

“It widens the appeal if you have that option available.”

The master plan will also include route extensions and Dr Sykes said he wanted to encourage people with beginner and advanced routes.

He said the track upgrades were a priority because there was a growing band of people who enjoyed walking and the companionship gained from doing it in groups.

“We’ve got a magnificent scenery and we will be recognised for the beautiful high country and river valleys.”

Dr Sykes said the upgrade and master plan will lead to economic benefits.

“It will be measured in millions and millions of dollars no question about that,” he said.

Guided walking tours is another initiative Dr Sykes believes will boost tourism.

It’s great to encourage people to get out and walking in national parks. But with the pro-development in parks agenda of the current government, we should always be a bit cautious about their motivations.

For instance, what does ‘accommodation options along the track’ mean? Private huts along the route, as is the case in Tasmania?

In March 2013, the Minister for Environment and Climate Change released the Tourism Investment Opportunities of Significance in National Parks Guidelines, an information pack to guide potential investors through the process of gaining approvals and ‘taking their plans to fruition’.

The government has said it will support “sensible and sensitive developments in national parks provided they complement environmental, heritage and other values and generate a net public benefit.”

The government has also announced that it intends to introduce fees for overnight hiking in national parks.

It would appear that doing the ‘Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing’ will attract a fee of $30, plus a $10 admin fee for the booking.