Phone apps, viewing platforms, nature based playspaces and the installation of paths and boardwalks are some of the plans aimed at enhancing the tourism potential of Lake Boort's scarred trees.
Loddon Shire Council reviewed the draft Boort Scarred Trees Masterplan at its recent monthly meeting and it has now been sent through to the project's steering committee for final approval.
Shire executive and commercial services manager Lynne Habner said the masterplan was developed within a short timeframe due to hold-ups as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said the intention of the masterplan was to produce a document with a compelling vision of cultural and tourism offerings sensitively developed over time.
The masterplan states that Lake Boort's scarred trees are regarded as one of the most significant Aboriginal cultural sites not only in Victoria, but in Australia.
There are estimated to be more than 400 scarred trees in the vicinity of the lake.
"The trees have been dated at more than 300 years old and retain the scars from the cutting of bark to make canoes, shields, food, carriers and containers," according to the masterplan.
"It is one of the few remaining sites where one can see trees with cultural uses such as toehold scars, ownership markers , possum extraction holes and with bark removed for dying possum skins, shelters grinding flour and burials.
"The site is not only known for its trees but for the many mounds, cooking ovens, artefacts and ceremonial sites known around the lake.
"The rarity of this site also comes from the ability for visitors to access the site easily and to see and understand how the local Indigenous community lived by the lake for tens of thousands of years."
The site has even been the subject of a critically-acclaimed documentary film The Lake of Scars which is currently screening in cinemas around the country
Ms Habner said the masterplan provided practical suggestions for management of risks, while acknowledging some were outside its scope such as water management of the lake, weed control, and managing the mixture of uses during duck hunting season.
"The masterplan reinforces the role of Parks Victoria as the land manager of the site, responsible for its ongoing management and development," Ms Habner said.
She said the masterplan suggested mostly small-scale infrastructure to enable visitor access while safeguarding its cultural values.
This includes paths and boardwalks sensitively designed to protect important and fragile cultural sites within the reserve and be designed in collaboration with Dja Dja Wurrung.
The reserves already houses a visitor shelter, picnic area and signage but the plan is to enhance the interpretation of the cultural heritage values of Lake Boort through on-site, hard copy and digital information with the use of apps.
It was also noted the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation has received $700,000 funding from Parks Victoria to develop a campsite, likely to be fully constructed within the next 18 months.
Regional Development Victoria stated The Boort Scarred Tree Masterplan project would be "one of the first areas in Victoria to develop a distinctly Indigenous product which will offer an accessible and rich experience for local, intrastate, interstate and international visitors".
Cr Gavan Holt said one of the issues that might have concerned council centred around the future ownership of actions to implement infrastructure development which would now become the responsibility of Parks Victoria.
"I think that council always had the position that we would make it clear that no responsibility would be held by us into the infrastructure development on this site," Cr Holt said.
Mayor Dan Straub said he also had a concerns over the issue.
"I feel this clears that up and finalises our involvement from the masterplan and any further commitment to council on monetary and staffing terms and it's good to see we've come out the other side," Cr Straub said.
"It was a contentious issue for a while. We have to make sure we are representing our constituents in the best way possible.
"There was a lot of contention around different user groups at Lake Boort and lots of questions asked and it's good to see clarification that it will be the responsibility of Parks Victoria."
Cr Neal Beattie pointed out council had a separate Lake Boort masterplan in place focusing on the lake itself whereas the scarred trees masterplan was looking at the Indigenous cultural aspect and how the public could best experience it.
Cr Linda Jungwirth said it would be really good for the area to see the masterplan go ahead.
She said it was a "really well put together document" and congratulated those who worked on it.
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