KERANG has significant untapped potential as a birdwatching and nature tourism destination, and its waterfront area is "worthy of further development" according to members of the local Landcare group.
Kerang resident, David Thompson made a submission to Gannawarra Shire Council on the draft Gannawarra waterfront master plan late last month, arguing that Kerang river frontage and parkland, which was not included in the plan, is under-utilised by tourists due to a lack of signage, lack of well kept walking and bicycle tracks, and poor promotion in brochures.
Mr Thompson and his wife Anne believe that most people in Kerang are unaware that bushland along the Loddon River from the Murray Valley Highway to Tragedy Bridge near the Kerang weir is a regional park managed by Parks Victoria.
The Kerang Regional Park, which was created in 2010, incorporates the Town and Back Swamps and the large unnamed section north of the railway line, which is "pristine" and a great canoeing and birdwatching location, they say.
"You'll be at most 4 kilometres from the post office yet you're canoeing through such a pristine, quiet environment. It's so remote - there's nothing there except kangaroos and cattle. A few canoe enthusiasts know about and appreciate it," Mrs Thompson said.
"We'd just like to raise awareness of the regional park and the potential it has. We'd like to see some of the existing walking tracks upgraded and better signage provided."
The Thompsons also argue for the creation of more tracks, particularly in the Back swamp area, which is currently largely inaccessible.
The tracks would "enhance users' experience of the area" and could connect with the town, the caravan park and Atkinson Park, they say.
"Probably we have access to a quarter of the regional park. For the other three-quarters there's no walking access," Mrs Thompson said.
"A lot of people would love to see something done."
Kerang Landcare group president, Angela Hird said the Thompsons represented the position of the local group, which was informed by feedback from other recreational users of the Loddon River in Kerang.
"There are a number of existing walking tracks along the Loddon River north and south of the bridge that have not been re-formed since the 2010 flood," Mrs Hird said. "We'd like to open up a couple more in the Back Swamp area and open up kayaking access more generally."
Also on the Thompsons' wishlist is a new bird-watching hide located off the levee bank, roosting logs for birds in the Town Swamp area, a platform for launching kayaks and fishing and an "adventure bike trail" from the swing bridge along the Loddon River, running along Washpen Creek to Reedy and Middle Lakes and on to Lake Charm."
Shire economic development manager, Roger Griffiths said that significant planning for Kerang's waterfront area had already been done and was included in the council's five-year plan, with some development projects already underway.
Kerang was not included in the waterfront masterplan because much of the town's strategic planning had been done, he said, and in contrast to the Kerang Lakes, Cohuna and Koondrook, 99 per cent of the town's infrastructure was not located along its river frontage.
The shire has already developed draft "way-finding signs" for Kerang's township, which show walking tracks and the main kayaking trail marked on large, easy-to-read maps.
The council had been working on the Kerang to Koondrook Rail Trail section of the Murray River Adventure trail, for which a feasibility study had already been done, Mr Griffiths said, and a cycle track between Kerang and Lake Charm was included in the waterfront masterplan.
Work would definitely be undertaken on walking tracks and kayaking trails, he said, but the timing was a question of "budget and priority", with attention needing to be given to how much use particular infrastructure would get.
Flooding was also an issue that made the construction of infrastructure at Kerang problematic, Mr Griffiths said.
Another issue was the area being subject to the management of Parks Victoria.
Mrs Hird agreed that planned improvements didn't need to be contained in the shire's waterfront masterplan.
"But when will we see some activity in that space?" she asked.
"We're not talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars. It doesn't cost that much to scrape back some tracks. What we're asking for won't cost a lot of money - just planning and council support."
"Kerang is the only town in Victoria I know that turns its back on the river - it's all about the lakes and Gunbower Island."
She acknowledged that flooding of the Loddon was an issue but one that could be planned for.
"Yes, things flood, but we can plan for that. Let's start the chat, start the planning for that."