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 side of the mountain. There is a steep slope up one side and a drop down to the Yarra River on the other. Buses and fire engines have trouble navigating it if there is traffic comin from the opposite direction and if road bikes are travelling it cars cannot overtake and must slow to a crawl. In holiday season the traffic can bank up along it. 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 5000+ extra visitors per week estimated in the Warburton Mountain Bike Destination EES Main Report 2021.
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. Tourists park over residents driveways blocking them in.
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. We can’t widen our roads.
An example of traffic chaos is the problems at the Redwood Forest at Cement Creek, East Warburton:
This was in June 2018, well before Covid his and so was not caused by caused by tourists flocking to local destinations because of overseas and interstate travel restrictions. The new car park built to manage this has proved inadequate to park all the cars that visit and cars have parked up to 3kms both sides along Wood Points Road. To create the car park cut down at least 32 trees that were classed as National Trust Significant Trees.
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.
The predicted number of mountain bike tourists expected is 221,454 per year which on a 40 week operation (that the destination is expected to be open) that is 5,536 per week.
The main Trail Head/Hub for the mountain bike destination is promoted as being the Warburton Golf Club, which will have it’s car park extended with room for an extra 250 car parking spaces. These spaces are to be shared with the Golf Club members. The Project is also planning to put extra car parking at the Wesburn Recreational Reserve and to use the parking on top of Mt. Donna Buang and create a small parking place on the top of Mt Tugwell.
Remembering that we 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?