President of the recently formed Byron Hikers Club says a ‘controversy is brewing’ around National Parks’ recently announced plans to close vehicle access to Unicorn Falls, located on South Chowan Road behind Upper Main Arm.
Stephen Millard says his club has over 100 members, centred around Mullum.
‘This large, sprawling Park has virtually no public access, and they are reducing it even further’.
He says National Parks will now provide a 1.3km path as the only access, whereas before, the road provided access ‘to even more spectacular waterfalls and provided access towards the base of Mt Chowan’.
According to the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), the masterplan is part of ‘nine projects as part of its visitor infrastructure program, which aims to increase nature-based tourism in NSW, boost regional visitor economies and improve coammunity wellbeing’.
The Unicorn Falls Draft Masteplan’s introduction reads, ‘The Tweed Byron Hinterland Trails, a multi-day walking track route, linking Tweed Shire, via Mount Jerusalem National Park, to Minyon Falls in Nightcap National Park, is one of these nine projects’.
The masterplan says the walk from Unicorn Falls to Minyon Falls, ‘will bring economic benefits to local communities and improve recreational opportunities within the Tweed and Byron local government areas’.
Mr Millard says the Unicorn Falls masterplan process was ‘deeply flawed’ because its intent changed from increasing visitor facilities to decreasing them.
The revised masterplan says, owing to public feedback, ‘South Chowan Road will be closed to vehicle traffic other than for park neighbours who use South Chowan Road as their primary access, and management and emergency vehicles. People with mobility disability will be provided with a gate key to visit the falls on request’.
Pathways and visitor information is also part of the upgrade.