Coastal treasures

Barwon Coast chief executive Gary McPike. (Louisa Jones)

Goya Dmytryshchak

It’s a treasured part of the coast for locals and tourists alike – 15 kilometres stretching through the Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads townships, along the Bass Strait coast of the Bellarine Peninsula.

Barwon Coast Committee of Management Inc (Barwon Coast), appointed by the state government to manage the Crown land, says the community has really valued being able to enjoy the coast during the COVID-19 

The coastal reserves have provided a space for people to exercise during restrictions, with an extensive network of walking trails as well as beautiful sandy beaches that have proven popular for dog walking, running, surfing and swimming.

Barwon Coast funds its operations through the revenue raised from its tourist accommodation businesses: Barwon Heads Caravan Park, Riverview Family Caravan Park and the seasonal Riverside Campground.

A major local employer in Barwon Heads and Ocean Grove, it has more than 50 staff working across the coastal reserve.

Chief executive Gary McPike said the 
pandemic had a huge impact on the operation of the business.

“We had to shut our caravan parks through the Easter school holiday period, which significantly reduced our revenue,” he said.

“This in turn impacted the way we operate and we had to rationalise our services across the coast to ensure we stayed viable.

“Our team has been nothing short of fantastic during this period. Staff have quickly adapted to all the extra requirements that working in a pandemic situation has required of them.

“We also appreciate the support of the state government to help us retain operations despite losing our main revenue stream.”

Along with all other Victorian caravan parks, Barwon Heads fully closed its operation in late March, effectively reducing revenue for this period to zero until it was able to reopen in a limited capacity in June.

It opened fully in late June until parks were shut again on August 5 with the reintroduction of stage 3 restrictions.

Mr McPike said Barwon Coast was working hard to ensure prospective caravan park guests and the local community using coastal reserves in Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads were being kept well informed as restrictions and services changed.

“With the re-introduction of stage 3 restrictions imposed across the region, we are closing the caravan parks again,” he said.

“This is of course another big blow to our organisation, but a necessary step we happily take to assist with stopping this deadly virus.

“We are busily working through the shutdown on some great offerings for visitors to our caravan parks when they reopen, including gourmet glamping packages and environmental education packages for schools and community groups.

“We hope that locals … can help us out by encouraging friends and family to stay with us when we are all allowed to travel again.”

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