Calls to swap Tower Hill's dangerous entry to improve safety have fallen on deaf ears with $1.1 million car park works starting on the existing Princes Highway entry.
Moyne Shire councillor James Purcell has been proposing swapping the iconic location's entry and exit points for at least five years and is disappointed it hadn't been adopted in the current works.
The $1.1 million works include realigning the highway entrance to Tower Hill and asphalting the nearby car park to include 14 designated parking spaces, and one accessible car space.
"It would be a much safer way to go if we reversed the entry and the exit," the former Western Victoria MP said. "But they seem to have dismissed it. I don't know why but they have.
"The intent is to have that safer so I would imagine they're going to put another slip lane in or maybe extra distances (to turn). It might make it safer, but in terms of the design I don't know what they're going to do."
He said he'd heard of a number of car accidents and near misses at the Princes Highway entry over the years.
"The problem is as you go over the hill it's actually quite dangerous. Particularly with tourists turning there and not knowing where they are and sort of jamming on the brakes and trucks running."
Cr Purcell remembered being with MP Jaala Pulford when the initial funding to upgrade the park was announced "five or six years ago".
"So it's good to see some of that coming through," he said. "I remember standing there making the announcement and it's taken this long to get this far. The wheels of government do turn slowly."
Cr Purcell said the improvement works at Tower Hill were "well and truly" overdue and it was one of the region's hidden secrets. "People who go there love it. It's like an open air wildlife (park).
In 2020 it attracted more than 295,000 visitors, which Parks Victoria said demonstrated steady visitation increases over the past five years.
The car park works is the start of $11.3 million of upgrades for the reserve as part of the $2.7 billion COVID-19 pandemic works stimulus package, announced by the Victorian government in May 2020.
They are being delivered by Regional Roads Victoria on behalf of Parks Victoria.
A Tower Hill Activation and Linkages Plan, released by Parks Victoria in 2021, identified "vehicular entrance off the Princes Highway is dangerous". It also highlighted the lack of signage as drivers approached the entry.
"Directional signage along the Princes Highway is minimal, resulting in first-time visitors often missing the entrance. Also, with current speed limits at 80km per hour, there are regular near misses and accidents recorded at the entrance to Tower Hill," the plan said.
The plan suggested to re-align and upgrade vehicle entrance - provide a new vehicle entry and associated signage features, at the current exit point along Lake View Road, based on prior advice and consultation with Regional Roads Victoria.
The design should address safety issues and improve the arrival experience for visitors, while also raising Tower Hill's profile for passing road users," it said.
Parks Victoria district manager Dale Antonysen didn't answer questions The Standard sent about whether there would be changes to the existing entry and exit points, if not why not and what the considerations for the decision, what the entry realignment works included and if a new turning lane would be included.
"The car park works are part of the wider Tower Hill Activation and Linkages Plan released last year," Mr Antonysen said. "The entrance to the reserve is being realigned and improved by the Department of Transport to provide a formalised car park and viewing area for visitors."
"The Victorian Government is supporting a range of improvements to Tower Hill reserve including heritage conservation works to the Robyn-Boyd designed visitor and information building, improvements to the amenities block and surrounding visitor precinct including new visitor information, wayfinding signage and Aboriginal cultural heritage interpretation."
"Proposed designs for the visitor precinct will be shared later in the year. We expect works to start in early 2023, subject to on-ground and construction industry conditions."
The car park next to the entrance on the highway is temporarily closed until mid-August, whilst works are underway. A temporary reduced speed limit of 40km/hour is in place. The Princes Highway entrance will be closed temporarily Monday, August 1 to Thursday, August 4. The highway will remain open during the works.
New entry signs will be installed at a later date. The designs are being developed in consultation with Parks Victoria and Eastern Marr Aboriginal Corporation.
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