Saturday, August 15, 2009

Recently sealed Bogong High Plains Rd a huge boost to building non winter visitation

On Friday April 24 history will be created (almost 45 years since the road was opened beyond Falls Creek by Ron White, (former Principal Hydro Engineer with the SEC) when the Hon Gavin Jennings MP Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Innovation proclaims the Bogong High Plains Rd officially open.

Ron White (who resides in Mt Beauty) was a key person in the development of the Kiewa Hydro Power Scheme which was the catalyst for the road from Mt Beauty to Falls Creek to be upgraded from a track formerly used by mountain cattlemen and bush rangers, to one capable of handling the heavy machinery required to build power stations and Rocky Valley Reservoir, which is brimming with wild bred trout.

Ron said:”I had the best job in the State Electricity Commission (SEC) which built the Kiewa Hydro Power Scheme (the largest hydro electric scheme in Victoria) and managed the land where Falls Creek is today.”

White was the person who declared open the Bogong High Plains Rd beyond Rocky Valley to Basalt Hill in 1965. It was closed the following day because of heavy snow and didn't reopen until the following summer.

"Back then there was a 20 mile an hour speed limit and there wasn't one fatality up until we handed it (the Bogong High Plains Rd) back to the Country Roads Board who built the original road between Mt Beauty and Falls Creek in the late 1930's,” said White.

“I spent 29 years working in numerous roles with the SEC. The Bogong High Plains Rd was designed to build a hydro scheme and take heavy machinery, so it isn't as windy as the road between Harrietville and Hotham."

Reflecting on the road's historical significance it is interesting to note the first users (of a much different road that what exists today) were mountain cattlemen, who travelled up a bush track to Falls Creek and the Bogong High Plains, mining prospectors and bush rangers.

The original name for Falls Creek was Horse Shoe Creek because it was often boggy and their horses frequently lost their shoes. It was renamed Falls Creek in 1939 by a supervisor working for the Country Roads Board (CRB).

Some of the names guests travelling up the road today will notice names such as the Cranky Charlie roundabout (named after one of the original pioneering farming families in the Kiewa Valley), Lyre Bird Creek (named by the SEC in 1958 after workers watched a Lyre Bird build a nest and raise a chick about 15 metres from the road) and Howman's Gap (named after Fred Howman another early settler in the picture-postcard Kiewa Valley) which will be recognised by a series of interpretive signs erected next summer.

Mt Beauty has evolved into a tourist-orientated town as the hydro-scheme workers moved on and a younger generation has taken their place to moved in work at Falls Creek and the numerous tourism-related ventures in the Kiewa Valley.

Bogong Village, originally the field headquarters of the Kiewa Hydro Power Scheme, has also had an injection of 'new blood' with private owners acquiring about 30 of the houses originally built to accommodate the workers.

The entire network of hydro-power stations and related facilities is now owned by AGL who purchased it from Southern Hydro (who acquired it from the SEC) for $1.4 Billion Dollars .

A dramatic flow of visitors occurred some years age when the final link in the Great Alpine Road was sealed. A similar scenario is anticipated (next summer) by the Falls Creek, Mt Beauty and Bogong Village tourism-related businesses.

It will become one of the most popular tourist drives in Victoria and a Mecca for motor and road cyclists seeking a new, interesting touring route.

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