Collie could become a major trail tourism hub with the recent announcement of plans to build holiday cabins and a potential winery expansion.
The Collie River Trail Stay project will receive $45,400 to build eight new accommodation cabins on a private farm on the outskirts of the town, while local winery, Harris River Estate will receive $40,000 to investigate expansion plans.
Grant recipient Jeff Riley of the Riley River Stay project, says he has plans drawn up for the cabins to be as eco-friendly as possible.
“We’ll have solar panels on them, they will be run on rain water and they will be very low maintenance buildings,” he says.
The new projects are being funded through the Collie Futures Small Grants Program and are the first stage of the $20 million dollar Collie Futures Fund.
Spread over five years, the fund aims to create jobs in the Collie region and drive economic diversity.
Both projects will capitalise on the McGowan government’s additional $10 million dollar investment to create over 180 kilometres of mountain bike and bushwalking trails in the region.
Chair of Collie Mountain Bike Club Erik Mellegers says locals have worked hard over many years for more trails to be built around Collie, releasing potential for the town to be known for more than coal mining.
“For a couple of local guys, it’s been a long journey spanning up to 20 years of advocacy with the local shire and with parks and wildlife,” he says.
“We have the river, the waterholes, the amazing forests and the opportunity for outdoor adventure and tourism.”
Despite the WA tourism industry losing a reported $3.1 billion from cancelled holidays during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Mellegers says he’s confident tourism to the town will continue to grow once travel restrictions are eased.
“[Prior to the pandemic] Just walking around town and in the local shop, I get comments of how many cars are coming into town with bikes on the back. There’s definitely a lot more [tourists] compared to three or four years ago,” he says.
“We are starting to get people coming out that have heard second or third hand that Collie is a really good destination to go to for the outdoors and trails.”
Jeff says his property, also part-owned by his son Clint, was the perfect place to stay for trail tourists and families as it offers a quiet farm stay with beautiful river views while being close to local trails.
“You can look over our property to the river and that’s where the cabins are going. We have a small cattle farm with alpacas, sheep, dogs and cats within meters of the cabins.” he says.
“When you come off the main road to our driveway… the trails carpark is at the top of our driveway basically.”
Minister for Regional Development Alannah MacTiernan says the project is providing unique opportunities for trail tourists of all fitness levels and in the future has the potential to draw overseas travellers.
“More than 180 kilometres of high-quality mountain bike and bushwalking trails will provide a new avenue for people to experience the picturesque Wellington National Park, putting Collie at the centre of WA’s new, world-class series of trails,” she says.
“While travel to the South West is not possible right now amid the COVID-19 crisis, we are helping Collie to prepare for a new and improved tourism industry once this pandemic has passed.”