LESS than three years ago Skipton was a muddy mess.
Floodwaters from the overflowing Mount Emu Creek devastated the town’s low-lying homes and businesses in September 2010 and again in January 2011.
While there are still signs of the damage today, the resilient community is fighting back.
Skipton is determined to change its reputation as a small spot on the map for people driving along the Glenelg Highway.
It wants to cement its future as an overnight tourist stop and a commuter town for Ballarat workers.
The pub hopes to be up and running by Christmas, nearly two years after it was forced to shut when rising water from the creek rushed through the ground floor and filled the cellar.
Corangamite Shire has also recently fielded inquiries from three businesses wanting to set up in town.
A new development plan, given the tick of approval by the council last week, has listed five priority projects the community hopes can be completed in time for the town’s 175th anniversary celebrations next year.
Further development of the Ballarat to Skipton Rail Trail, landscaping improvements, creating sites for camping or caravans and installing new entry signs are on the list.
Residents John Kavanagh and Lilla Orton have urged the council to get behind the community’s vision for Skipton. Mrs Orton said the town needed more residents and more businesses and the community plan was a start.
“It may be baby steps, but I think that’s how you’ve got to go,” she said.
“It’s all about improving the town, not just for the tourists but the people who live there.
“We need commuters from Ballarat. We’ve got a country lifestyle (and) it’s an easy commute.”
Mr Kavanagh said the $30,000 earmarked to improve the rail trail link into town would be a big boost.
“It’s a great thing for tourism. A lot of people use it, but more funding would increase its usage.”
He said Skipton was not big enough for a large caravan park, but was well positioned for overnight stays.
“Free camping” was a growing concept for people travelling in caravans and campers with their own self-contained facilities such as toilets, showers and power, Mr Kavanagh said.
Tourists kept an eye out for spots with “RV (recreation vehicle) friendly town” signs as they travelled around Australia: “You know when you go there, you’re welcome and invited, and people appreciate that.”
He said the 157-turbine Stockyard Hill wind farm, between Skipton and Beaufort, would soon provide a major boost to the town, with an estimated 400 jobs required in construction and 30 to 50 ongoing.
The shire’s community development officer Gary Moorfield said Skipton was the 10th town to complete a community plan as part of the Building Stronger Corangamite Communities project. He said 48 people, representing 10 per cent of the town’s population, had a chance to suggest ideas during the consultation phase, initially identifying a list of 20 suitable projects.
“The trauma of the 2010 and 2011 Skipton flood events and the protracted and ongoing period of recovery and adjustment have left their mark upon the community,” Mr Moorfield said.
He said the community planning initiative provided an opportunity to “gather and harness community motivation” and make sure some long-held aspirations were completed.
Cr Ruth Gstrein praised Skipton residents’ resilience.
“When I was mayor, Skipton was one of my favourite towns because the community helped itself,” she said.
Cr Jo Beard said development of a community plan was an exciting process and showed the passion people had for their towns.
Mayor Chris O’Connor acknowledged that Skipton was the town located furthest from Corangamite’s Camperdown offices and it was only natural that its sense of “engagement and connectedness” suffered as a result.
“But we do love you, don’t worry about that,” he told the town representatives.
“We know you’re there.”