University students bring fresh tourism perspective

Rail trail development plan put under the microscope

A GROUP of students from the University of South Australia has travelled to Coonawarra within recent weeks to research the environmental and economical benefits of the Rail Trail.the Rail Trail proposal.

Students met with Balnaves Winery viticulturist Peter Balnaves to discuss the long-term plan for re-vegetation of the rail trail area.

Mr Balnaves spoke to students regarding current issues facing the world-renowned wine region, as well as investigating further experiences for tourists.

Innovation and repositioning the Terra Rossa strip as a leader within the region was also addressed, with students pressing the wine leader for understanding about what the project needs.

The university’s associate professor Delene Weber said the overall visit was a success, with students now preparing a written report to produce to key stakeholders.

“We had a group of environmental and geo-spatial science students come to Balnaves and they looked at four different projects related to the trail,” she said.  “One looked at the need for vegetation and assessed the soil because the railway kept various amounts of chemicals around in order to keep weeds away. “They also looked at the weeds which are currently along the rail trail and native plants which have settled in.”

Ms Weber said students sought information from the Penola and Coonawarra community about tourism aspects they would like to see along the trail. “We conducted a survey with the local community which we are still gathering data from,” she said.  “We will then be putting this together in the report while other students conduct analysis of the soil and run some tests.”

Infrastructure needs, signage and marketing were also looked at with Saint Mary MacKillop a popular town icon. ‘Most of the concept for the interpretation and signs for the area is surrounded by Mary MacKillop’s quote about travellers and reducing the impact on the environment,” she said.

“This further correlates to recycling and the cleaner winery industry. “We see it as an important motive to have the students make a meaningful contribution to regional community and recognise their ability to help.”

Ms Weber noted the importance of students developing practical skills during the project. “They are acting in the roles of principals and the day showed them what needs to be taken into account for all projects which includes economical and social issues as well as environmental,” she said.

“It also allows for them to develop their organisational skills as they needed to organise what they needed before they came to Coonawarra to ensure they collected the right samples.”

The overall results will be documented in a written report which will then be present to key stakeholders.

Source: The Border Watch (tbw.newsgroup),  Charlotte Varcoe. 4. September 2019

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