A controversial proposal for the Adelaide Hills

The recent tourism development proposed for the Cleland Wildlife Park includes a cable car, hotel, zip lines and an Australiana shopping precinct. It’s an interesting idea that, if it is debated seriously will almost certainly get heated.

I love Cleland and the surrounding area and find nothing exciting about the thought of a whole lot of construction in the area. The idea of an “Australiana shopping precinct” replacing sections of the park are also distasteful. Despite this, if done well it could be a positive development for the area, the state and the environment.

If more people can experience Australian wildlife and flora, then more people will care about protecting it for the long term. What’s better for the environment – tourists taking photos of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, or tourists creating a special connection with the natural environment. Whilst it’s true that jumping on a cable car, holding a koala, buying a postcard and flying home is a very superficial experience, it doesn’t follow that it means nothing to that person. And if it means something to that person, it may change their future choices for the better.

On a more local level, more people in the Adelaide Hills would be a bonus for local businesses. Local residents may be concerned about increased traffic and noise, but the reality is that tourists will stick to the main streets. We would be unlikely to see hoards of people roaming down Sheoak Rd or Rangeview Drive. The economic argument for the state and national economy may not move those with genuine environmental concerns, but consider the environmental benefits of an economy that sells experiences instead of coal.

The venue could also be a fantastic launching pad for various trail running events. Imagine next years planned 5 Peaks run being able to start or finish at the venue. Or the way it could transform the Cleland Trail Champs into something much bigger,

For those who are used to the area being where they go to find some peace, we are blessed with many other beautiful parks in the hills – the upper section of our own Belair National Park gets a tiny fraction of the walkers that are attracted to the Mt Lofty walk. Yet the trails are arguably far more scenic (and just as challenging).

No development proposal like this is without it’s problems. If it goes ahead it will have negative impacts. However, when considering the big picture, I think those of us living in the Adelaide Hills should embrace the idea, not resist it. I expect to be in the minority though.