With the upcoming opening of the Pacific Highway upgrade between Glenugie and Maclean fast approaching, The Independent spoke with the president of Ulmarra Village Incorporated Steve Pickering, about how Ulmarra is preparing for the by-pass.
Mr Pickering said that about three years ago when it became obvious that Ulmarraas well as South Grafton were going to be by-passed,they decided that a plan needed to be put in place.
“We called a town meeting and invited the Clarence Valley Council (CVC) along with State and Federal politicians,” Mr Pickering said.
“Council ended up taking over the running of the meeting and so we had our first by-pass town meeting.
“We had about three of those meetings and the community decided what theywanted the village to be like after the by-pass. So, we all put in ideas which were collated and then a plan was put forward.From that plan it was obvious that some projects were easy and some a lot more difficult.
“Some of the more difficult ones were moved into the ‘Ulmarra Riverside Precinct plan’ which was agreed by Council that around July 2019 they were going to proceed with that. This was for the boardwalks and revitalisation of the town centre – avenues of trees, wider footpaths to make it easier to get around and a number of other things including RV Camping at the Showground and more boat parking and facilities for families in Bailey Park. It was quite comprehensive and estimated to cost around $7 million, at the time.
“Because the Council had already voted to close the Ulmarra pool, they immediately allocated$1 million to the precinct plan, to get the ball rolling.
“The plan was for that precinct plan to be underway within 2019, with councillor Williamson stating that he would like the shovels turning in Bailey Park by Christmas that year.
“Obviously, the bushfires have slowed some progress.
“The project is still happening,and we have a board in the park telling people about the plan.
“Council have employed a dedicated project manager to take on the running of that to get quotes and detailed design plans, so that should all be happening. The project manager started in February so they were going out to tender at the end of March and the result should be back to the community by the end of April.
“It’s now ANZAC Day 25 April and we’ve got about a week to find out where these plans are, so that will be interesting.
“The RV Camping (at the Showground) is probably a little bit closer than the other plans.The DA has been accepted by council, and there is a management plan to run the camping, but the amenities blocks had to be upgraded. As part of that upgrade they had to do a new septic system, because Ulmarra doesn’t have sewerage.
So, the new septic system will be stage one and the amenities block and then the camping can start.
So hopefully that will be underway very soon,” he said.
Mr Pickering said that when he and his partner Marc McIntyre moved to Ulmarra they were asked to join the Pacific Motorway Woolgoolga to Ballina signage team, which they did and they have had input into the new signage for Ulmarra.
“I think there are three signs at each end of the by-pass pointing to Ulmarra as well as new precinct signage welcoming people to Ulmarra from north, south and east,” he said.
“Over the last 12 months we’ve joined forces with other businesses and collectively done exposés in the SCENE Magazine and Seniors Magazine on the villages to give us a higher profile. We have also done a little bit of radio advertising as well. We are always looking for new ideas and strategies to keep the town vibrant.
“The businesses have been aware of the by-pass opening and we knew it would be around April/May this year. So,we have been planning for that and making small changes already.
“Most of the businesses have been aware that there is going to be a downturn immediately, which is why we’ve been setting Ulmarra up as a destination through media publications.
“There has also a heavy social media campaign that I’ve been funding myself but it’s for the village, not just my particular business.
“When the by-pass does open, the plan before the COVID-19 global pandemic,was for the town to close off Coldstream Street and have a big street party, so that will still be happening if we’re allowed to make that happen.
“There are a number of musicians in the area, so we can have some music and it’ll be a good get together.
“The Ulmarra Village Incorporatedhas taken on ideas from other business-people, ofevents that they’d like to have, to attract people to the village and alsoconnectthe (surrounding)villages back together again. These includeevents such as music, picnic in the parks andmaybe an History Fair down the track one day,” he said.