Today, the Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area was gazetted, with its draft Master Plan publicly released containing plans for major visitor and tourism development.
Keith Muir, former Colong Foundation for Wilderness (now Wilderness Australia) Executive Director, said:
“The Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area gazetted today must negotiate a political minefield if it is to be properly managed.
“The new reserve comes with significant funding that should protect and present its astounding pagoda landscapes and rare upland swamps, but a large chunk of money is ear-marked for a “Luna park” style amusement rides. Of equal concern are the planned built accommodation units that set a development precedent for Blue Mountains National Parks. Conservationists have kept the Blue Mountains parks free of this sort of development, so the new park’s big funding package is a poison chalice.
Tourism Master Plan will fail to give Lithgow the tourism hit it needs
“Under the reserve’s Master Plan released today the full tourism potential of Lithgow’s Gardens of Stone backyard will not be realised. While the Master Plan has placed high use visitor facilities close to Lithgow and enabled family-friendly visitor experiences, these offerings are not linked to Lithgow with a 2WD tourist loop road.
“Some of the development with roads and lookouts will ruin 2,350 hectares of NPWS identified wilderness using funds that would be better spent on a 2WD loop road.
“There’s truly nothing like the Gardens of Stone - the watershed of the Cox, Capertee, Wolgan, Turon and Wollangambe rivers, it straddles the Great Dividing Range. At almost 1200 metres, the new reserve protects the highest sandstone plateau in the Sydney Basin and will be a cool climate refuge from climate change.
“The diversity and rarity of its scenery and native flora, and its dramatic Aboriginal cultural heritage will be enjoyed by thousands of people but without a 2WD suitable tourist loop road the Master Plan misses the mark for Lithgow.
"The thrill-seeking zip line ride just denies the reality that visitors are already spell bound by nature in the Gardens of Stone, and the on-park accommodation offer also drags people away from Lithgow and puts development into the park. What the hell is a park, if it’s not an area set aside from development for nature!”