Warburton lies in a narrow valley between steep mountains. Mt. Little Joe stands on its western edge blocking it in (Melbourne side). The Warburton Highway becomes very narrow at this point (called ‘the Narrows’ by locals) as it cuts into the mountain. There is a steep slope up one side and a drop down to the Yarra River on the other. Yet, this highway is both the route in and out of our town and the only decent road for evacuation.
Our streets are narrow and our parking is woefully inadequate to deal with the tourists we already have let alone the 4125 extra visitors per week estimated in the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination Revised Economic Impact Assessment March 2018.
Over the last four years more and more locals have chosen to stay away from the town centre on weekends and holidays and have complained about traffic snarls and speeding cars near their homes.
Geographically, there is a limit to how much expansion can happen here due to the narrowness of the valley and the steep mountains either side.
An example of traffic chaos is the problems at the Redwood Forest at Cement Creek, East Warburton:
A new car park was built to manage this, however the car park cut down at least 32 trees that were classed as National Trust Significant Trees to do this.
Another example is the traffic problems being generated by the inadequate parking at the Warburton Holiday Park.
Due to the narrowness of our valley with State and National Park either side and the narrowness of our streets, there is only so far that parking can be developed and traffic to be managed. Residents are constantly complaining about tourist traffic causing unsafe conditions on the roads now, without the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination.
At a meeting on Wednesday, 20 February, 2018, Matt Harrington, Project manager for the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination claimed that a new car park will be built for 250 parking spaces (at the Warburton Golf Course) but that there would be no need for anything more because the current parking in Warburton is underutilised. He suggested that tourists could park around the Warbuurton Oval–a potential conflict with local sports using the oval and at the car park next to the end of Warburton that is for local shopping (separate from our more touristy, cafe section of town)–a potential conflict with local shoppers.
These two parks are crammed full to the extent that locals are calling for a separate ‘Events Village’, to ease the problem of living in a town that becomes unusable to locals on event days.
Matt Harrington also claimed that there would be only 60,000 extra visitors in the first year–only 200 extra per day. However, this is only the amount of visitors for the first year–expected numbers to rise far above this. Also the estimate of 200 per day is an average over a week (60,000 divided by a 40 week mountain bike season = 200 per day), however, those visitors will be concentrated on weekends, holidays, events days and pleasant weather.
These uneven hiccoughs cause high stress days for visitor numbers, not a comfortably even spread. So that is 1,400 per week that will concentrate. The mature number of mountain bikers is expected to be 135,000 which over a 40 week season is 3,375 per week. The optimum number expected is 4,125 per week. Remembering that we are already have inadequate car parking on weekends and holidays and that the 250 car parking spaces will be shared by the Golf Club, is this really a serious attempt to address the problems that the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination will cause?
Attitudes towards tourism are changing, with the term ‘overtourism’ being coined in 2012 and we ask: How many is too many tourists for Warburton?