Public exhibition of this master plan provided an opportunity for members of the community to have a say on this activity proposed by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
What was proposed?
Unicorn Falls is approximately 15 kilometres south-east of the village of Uki on South Chowan Road within Mount Jerusalem National Park. The Unicorn Falls master plan is the second of 4 separate master plans for different precincts within the Tweed Byron Hinterland Trails project which aims to increase nature-based tourism, boost regional visitor economies and improve community wellbeing.
As outlined in the proposed amendments to the plan of management (Tweed Byron Hinterland Trails project), this master plan includes proposals to:
- develop a day use area at Unicorn Falls on Chowan Creek, South Chowan Road, in Mount Jerusalem National Park
- develop a camping area next to Manns Road, near Unicorn Falls, in Mount Jerusalem National Park.
The works at Unicorn Falls will provide basic facilities on South Chowan Road for day visitors to enjoy the falls and surrounding rainforest. The day use area will feature picnic tables, a toilet and parking for seven vehicles. This will protect the natural and cultural values from the impact of informal visitation at Unicorn Falls due to the lack of visitor facilities. It will also serve as the trail head and drop-off point for the multi-day walk to Minyon Falls.
The campground, located about 1 kilometre away on Manns Road, will provide seven low key campsites for visitors and walkers. New walking tracks will link the campground to Unicorn Falls and the Whiskey Creek Trail (approximately 200 metres away), providing connections to the multi-day walking track network.
The master plan illustrates the design concepts developed for the precinct. It presents a picture of planned visitor infrastructure improvements at the site including site plans and diagrams. Environmental assessments have been undertaken for the designs of both the day use area and campground. This has concluded there will be minimal impact on the park's cultural and natural values. After public exhibition, the master plan is amended and implemented subject to further investigation, design and environmental impact and cultural heritage assessment.
Why is it needed?
The proposed multi-day walking track commences at Unicorn Falls and finishes 45 kilometres to the south at Minyon Falls in Nightcap National Park. The developments at Unicorn Falls will act as the northern visitor hub.
The purpose of the proposed day use area at Unicorn Falls is twofold:
- to act as the trailhead drop-off point for walkers
- provide a small day use area for visitors to enjoy the beauty of Unicorn Falls and the surrounding rainforest environment.
No facilities are currently provided at the site and parking is restricted to several informal bays on South Chowan Road. There are no formal paths and visitors often walk across the top of the falls to get to the pool below, creating a slip hazard. The steep descent to the pool has also led to erosion and presents a safety hazard. There is evidence of trail bike riders riding through the creek above the falls and the proposed picnic area, which is degrading the natural values of the site.
The development of the Manns Road campground will provide a new recreation opportunity for the local community. And, although the camp sites are not critical for the success of the multi-day walk, it will also allow users of the trail to stay overnight before commencing their journey if preferred.