Tomaree Coastal Walk draft Master Plan on exhibition until October 20, have your say

VISION: Residents have until October 20 to have their say on a draft master plan for the 20km Tomaree Coastal Walk.
VISION: Residents have until October 20 to have their say on a draft master plan for the 20km Tomaree Coastal Walk.

The Port Stephens community has the opportunity to comment on a newly proposed visitor experience within Tomaree National Park.

A draft master plan for the $6.7 million Tomaree Coastal Walk - a National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) project set to deliver a spectacular 20 kilometre link between Tomaree Head and Birubi Point - has been revealed and people have until October 20 to comment.

The Tomaree Coastal Walk draft Master Plan balances the desire to conserve Tomaree National Park's natural and cultural values with future visitation demands by creating experiences to better manage visitation in the park throughout the year.

"The Tomaree Coastal Walk will cater for a range of immersive, nature-based visitor experiences from short walks to half-day and overnight options rich in Worimi culture, historic heritage and natural wonders, providing opportunities for tourism partnerships," a NPWS spokesperson said.

"The plan provides an overview and conceptual designs for the walk project with maps of the indicative 20km walking track route connecting Tomaree Head to Birubi Point.

"There are also proposals for supporting initiatives and facility upgrades to enhance the experience, improve visitor management and meet future visitation demands. This includes proposed upgrades, concept designs and artist impressions for the Tomaree Head, Box Beach, Big Rocky and Iris Moore precincts.

"Improvements may include new and upgraded walking tracks, viewing platforms, parking, interpretation, amenities and other visitor facilities."

Tomaree Lodge is not part of the draft plan. The Department of Family and Community Services, owners of the lodge, are in the process of transferring residents of the large disability residential centre to group homes. A department spokesperson told the Examiner in July that no decision had been made on the closure of Tomaree Lodge.

MASTER PLAN: Tomaree headland, which is part of the Tomaree Coastal Walk draft master plan that is now out on exhibition.

MASTER PLAN: Tomaree headland, which is part of the Tomaree Coastal Walk draft master plan that is now out on exhibition.

Speaking about the potential of the Tomaree Headland within the coastal walk master plan, Peter Clough from Tomaree Headland Heritage Group, formed to 'document, protect and promote the history and sustainability' of the popular Shoal Bay headland, said he saw an opportunity for the natural and cultural assets to be showcased and displayed in an interpretive centre.

"Public amenities such as access and parking are also important considerations. For example, parking is already at saturation point and therefore needs to be addressed in the short-term. This can perhaps be mitigated through the introduction of shuttle buses and public transport," Mr Clough said.

"In fact maybe there is the opportunity for reinstatement of the public jetty with a pontoon to allow access to the coastal walk via public transport.

"Overall, the walk will be a significant new visitor attraction for Port Stephens which has the potential to strengthen the economy as well as addressing the seasonal troughs associated with visitation to Port Stephens."

NPWS says it will continue to work with the tourism industry and local operators to maximise commercial partnerships provided by the visitor improvements, including mountain bike riding.

"Mountain bike riding opportunities will continue to be provided on management trails in Tomaree National Park, in line with the existing plan of management. Visitor experience improvements including carparking, interpretation and other facilities can also be enjoyed by mountain bikers," the NPWS spokesperson said.

"NPWS is also consulting a range of commercial and recreational users, to ensure the proposed walk complements existing legal activities in the park. Opportunities for mobility impaired and wheelchair access will be investigated."

TREK: A section of the walk at Fingal Bay.

TREK: A section of the walk at Fingal Bay.

While not all improvements proposed in the draft master plan can be delivered as part of the Tomaree Coastal Walk project funding, the draft plan provides long-term visitor facility planning for the park, should further funding become available.

"Delivery of the supporting precinct upgrades proposed in the draft master plan is subject to future funding and construction will be subject to rigorous environmental and heritage approvals before commencing."

NPWS is hosting a COVID safe information sessions on Saturday, October 10, at Tomaree Library and Community Centre in Salamander Bay to provide an opportunity for people to meet with the project team to discuss the draft plans. Bookings are essential. Call the Nelson Bay office on (02) 4984 8200.

The draft coastal walk plan can be viewed at environment.nsw.gov.au/tomareecoastalwalk.

Submissions can be posted to the Hunter-Central Coast Branch, PO Box 488G Newcastle NSW 2300, or via email: npws.huntercentralcoastbranch@environment.nsw.gov.au.