9 November 2018

How about a hotel among the gum trees?

| Genevieve Jacobs
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The zig-zag gardens will line a path from the gates of the National Arboretum to the Village Centre. Photo: Supplied.

A new hotel, cabins among the trees and 50 newly planted zig-zag gardens in the central valley of the National Arboretum are all coming closer as the site grows faster than a rogue willow tree. And that means that what began as a patchwork of forests is rapidly changing shape as it expands commercially.

The hotel idea isn’t a new one: it formed part of the Arboretum’s infrastructure master plan. A range of five to ten years was initially indicated as a timeline, and the expression of interest process was slated to begin when economic conditions were “suitable”. It seems that time may be now.

The ACT government expects that an Expression of Interest for the hotel will be released next year, investigating potential development partnerships. It’s quite possible those investors may come from overseas: a spokesman for the Chief Minister said that an Arboretum hotel has been identified as a future opportunity during recent trade missions.

Mr Barr said recently that the acquisition of Hotel Hotel at New Acton by the Hong Kong-based Ovolo Group indicated the effectiveness of the international trade mission process and the interest in Canberra from internationally based investors.

Friends of the Arboretum president Trish Keller is enthusiastic about the potential and thinks “the sooner the better” for the project. “At the moment we have this wonderful site, with lots of events, weddings and the like, but there’s nowhere to stay if people afterwards want to relocate. Cabins in the forest would also be well received, I think, similar to the accommodation at the zoo. It’s a great opportunity and an ideal location.”

She says interest in the Arboretum as a tourist destination and venue as well as an attraction for locals continues to be very high. “The visitors are just continuing to come. People say to me, I’m staying in town where should I go for a really special lunch, somewhere memorable? And of course, for me, the answer is always the Arboretum.”

The next major development includes 24 gardens in the Central Valley, placed along the zigzag path stretching from the entry gates to the Village Centre. Each garden bed will be planted with a particular species and Arboretum director Scott Saddler says interest has already been surprisingly strong. “We have the prospectus out but we haven’t even got the project off the ground yet and already we have commitments for five gardens.”

The gardens will be matched by the avenue of trees already being planted by dignitaries, various world leaders and celebrities in an ongoing programme. Eventually, there are plans to incorporate a water feature cascading down the spine of the path, creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment for casual strolls.

On Tuesday night (13 November) the Friends of the Arboretum will launch their first fundraising campaign. They’re seeking $50,000 after committing to sponsoring one of the zigzag gardens and Trish Keller says they’ll launch a few balloons, pop some champagne corks and celebrate the next stage of growth.

Do you think there should be a hotel at the Arboretum?

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Where is the Arboretum master plan available? Earlier Riotact topics on accommodation in the Arboretum didn’t mention a hotel that I recall!

Firstly you would need some gum trees. I don’t know the exact numbers but it appears that there are only two or three eucalyptus varieties. The rest, 100(s) ? Are all foreigners.

Of course a hotel amongst the trees is a great idea. Cabins too and campsites. Perhaps not caravans though. The more the area is used and enjoyed the better. All these uses can be easily accommodated if sensitively planned and well managed. Too many nay sayers in this town and too few people with vision.

Capital Retro10:12 am 13 Nov 18

“child friendly food”?

In my days as a child we ate what was put in front of us. What are you talking about?

Capital Retro5:27 pm 12 Nov 18

I think I have figured out why a lot of commentators want to see the arboretum fun park to just keep on growing and growing with every conceivable gimmick and facility available whatever the price.

These people, like a lot of ACT politicians, think money grows on trees and as there are a lot of trees at the arboretum so that’s where all the money come from.

If only it were true.

“Cabins in forests”? I don’t mind too much if there is a very contained hotel somewhere in the Arboretum, but it’s totally wrong to set up cabins as well, instead of having a forest where those of us who are PAYING for it can wander and enjoy. Inevitably tourists staying in cabins would be privileged over locals.

Capital Retro11:57 am 12 Nov 18

The zoo concept is great,Tim.

I assume you are referring to an open plain/free range zoo in which case bicycle paths throughout would be an enhancement.

Capital Retro8:00 am 12 Nov 18

I haven’t seen any gum trees at the Arboretum – it’s over-weighted with exotic trees, most of which seem to be struggling because the location isn’t ideal.

There are enough commercial intrusions already and with more tacky themes planned the place will end up be less like an arboretum that perhaps was originally planned.

I would like to know how much money has already been sunk into the place.

About 1/3 of the forests at the Arboretum are natives, including the Western Queensland white gums to your right as you enter, and the Camden white gums immediately behind the Visitor Centre. Other eucalypts include Morrisby’s gum, Wallangarra white gum, small leaved gum, red ironbark, spotted gum and snow gums. The STEP garden and remnant forest include mixed local eucalyptus.
The addition of a hotel will have no impact on the current plan of the Arboretum and would add some useful amenity at the Western end of the site behind Dairy farmers Hill.

Capital Retro8:31 am 13 Nov 18

I was there at the weekend but didn’t recognise any of those eucalypti; probably because “native” trees do not look natural in plantation arrangements.

The ratio of exotic to native is 2:1 which in any language is “over-weighted”.

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