Gemfields trail bolsters local tourism
Sparkling sapphires, curious characters and extraordinary escapades are all waiting to be discovered along the new Sapphire Gemfields Interpretive Trail, which was officially opened in August in the Central Highlands region in Queensland.
The $590,000 project includes a series of five large interpretive nodes across the four local townships and 30 smaller place-markers at points of interest throughout the area.
“The development and construction of this trail has been a truly community driven experience, with the idea for the trail conceived sometime around 2011,” Councillor Megan Daniels said.
“A steering committee comprising of local community leaders, stakeholder representatives and tourism operators was formed and from there the hard work began.”
The interpretive signs incorporate innovative, modern augmented reality technology with multi-media and solar-powered audio features.
The trail also includes the eye-catching signature art piece ‘Sapphire Reflections’ from award-winning artists Milne and Stonehouse.
“The spectacular sculpture uses architectural glass that has actually been imprinted with images taken from real local stones, including the famous Tomahawk Tiger and Stonebridge Green,” Cr Daniels said.
Central Highlands Development Corporation (CHDC) tourism development officer Peter Grigg said the new interpretive trail reflected a growing confidence by all levels of government in the local tourism sector.
“We need to recognise that this is probably the biggest investment of public money in the Gemfields ever,” he said.
“But this trail isn’t just another attraction – it will help to support the businesses, small and big, that have already invested millions, as well as blood, sweat and tears, into the visitor experience.”
Chairman of the steering committee and local business owner Ewan Letts said he had been ‘humbled’ by the dedication and effort put into the project.
“It’s something we’re really proud of as a community and the rest of the Central Highlands can be proud of as well,” he said.
“As a business owner, it means the people that frequent our business, their visit will be enhanced by the experience they’ll now be able to have.
“I’m sure that will turn those visits into more visits, and new visits by their friends and family.”
The interpretive trail was funded by the Central Highlands Regional Council and the Australian Government’s Tourism Demand Driver Infrastructure (TDDI) Program, which is administered by the Queensland Government’s Department of Tourism, Major Events, Small Business and the Commonwealth Games.