A new organisation wants the Old Hume Hwy to become a tourist attraction in its own right.CHALPAT SONTI July 10, 2014 3:56am
This grainy picture of the (now) Old Goulburn River Bridge was taken in 1958, when the Old Hume Hwy was still in its heyday. The photograph was on the cover of a 1958 Seymour Racing Club racebook dropped in to the Telegraph by a reader.
It’s probably the nation’s most famous stretch of road — and our region, like many others, has failed to capitalise on it.
Or so that’s the thinking behind a new group which is being set up to promote and preserve the Old Hume Hwy.
Even if the concept works just a little, the spin-offs could be great for Tallarook, Seymour and Avenel.
‘‘Old Hume Highway 31’’ is the brainchild of Frank Burke, a man who has spent a lifetime on the road, and if it ends up anything like he hopes it will, we could be seeing the start of something big.
The idea behind it is simple — to turn the old route into a tourist destination.
‘‘My concern is that the Old Hume Hwy is being lost,’’ he said.
‘‘People aren’t going that way any more but it is of immense historical value and unfortunately in Australia we don’t recognise those things as we might. Kids aren’t learning about it in schools and people don’t realise how important it was.
‘‘Most of Australia’s earliest development took place along the Hume Hwy and even the freeway is Australia’s first inter-capital freeway. But when you drive from Sydney to Melbourne there’s nothing anywhere to say ‘this is the Old Hume Hwy’ and that is a real shame.’’
The lack of any signs to point motorists to the route — or even the knowledge of the route itself — as well as getting people back into the towns that lined it are all on the to-do list.
‘‘Between Sydney and Melbourne on the Old Hume Hwy there’s every form of activity except surfing,’’ Mr Burke said.
‘‘Let’s turn these towns into tourist destinations. We can also educate visitors on Australia’s history — the longer we leave it, once it’s gone, it’s gone. We’ve got to give them an incentive to come into these towns.
‘‘If only one per cent of the cars came in because they knew about you through this, you would get 100 extra cars a day. At the moment towns are suffering to different degrees but everyone can benefit from this — it’s not something you can go backwards on.
‘‘And for generations to come, the old highway will still be there. Hopefully they start teaching kids about it again in schools.’’
And he even points to a road safety benefit.
‘‘When people had to go through these towns, they would often stop and they would get a proper rest along the way,’’ he said.
‘‘Now they have a quick dash-and-splash on the side of the road and that doesn’t give them a rest at all really.’’
Mr Burke has done plenty of groundwork — he has registered business names, domain names and even reserved Facebook pages. And the electronic set-up will be accessible from all types of devices — a handy tool for passengers in cars.
But he expects the new entity to be a community organisation, owned by the towns along the route.
It will be headquartered at Yass, fittingly at the National Trust-owned Cooma Cottage, the long time home of Hamilton Hume. That might also quell any interstate sniping.
‘‘Knowing the competition between NSW and Victoria, if we put it in NSW the Victorians would scream and also the other way around,’’ he said.
‘‘But putting it there will take away any interstate rivalry.’’
The idea has the support of the Yass Valley Council, the National Trust made the offer of the headquarters, and representatives from councils (including Mitchell and Strathbogie), historical societies, motoring groups and others along the route have been invited to a ‘‘Foundation meeting’’ at Yass next week.
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