A PROPOSAL for privately-operated hiker lodges in the Grampians would threaten the pristine environment and affect existing accommodation providers, the Victorian National Parks Association has warned.
Up to seven lodges could be built within the national park and two outside under a masterplan for the Grampians Peaks Trail, which would cover 144 kilometres from Mount Zero to Dunkeld.
A number of hiker camps would also be established.
Under the proposal 99-year lease agreements could be offered for commercial development of lodges.
The association is concerned the “higher-yield” market would compromise the park’s future and does not accept the need or desirability for commercial development of built facilities inside the park.
According to the masterplan, the walk is expected to generate 32,000 visitor nights in 2015, increasing to more than 80,000 visitors by 2025, while the total number of walkers using the trail is expected to increase from 13,800 next year to more than 34,000 people by 2025.
“On-walk accommodation is central to the experience of an iconic multi-day walk such as the Grampians Peaks Trail,” the masterplan says.
“Default accommodation for the entire length of the trail will be hiker camps (provided by Parks Victoria), with camping on designated tent platforms.
“On-walk hiker lodges will be provided by the private sector — these are roofed structures which may include showers, toilet and kitchen facilities.
“They will cater for a higher-yield market and be used by guided walkers.”
Environment Minister Ryan Smith said the trail would open up the national park for more people, while Grampians Tourism Board chief executive Will Flamsteed said private lodges would provide hikers with a world-class nature experience and were just some of the investment opportunities.
“It’s not just about lodges in a national park,” he told the ABC.
Parks Victoria district manager Graham Parks said the trail should proceed, with or without the lodges.
The first stage between Halls Gap and Borough Huts is nearing completion.