STAWELL - Northern Grampians Shire Council has established a working group within the economic development department to focus on a new Western Highway beautification project.
The project will include installation of new event signage and other beautification works aimed at creating a more welcoming image for visitors to the area.
Council sees the project as an ideal way to not only promote major events in and around Stawell, but to 'cash in' on the increasing number of tourists who will be in the area during periods including Christmas and New Year and also Easter.
Council's Business Services and Tourism Manager, Debbie Bach, said the project would focus strongly on the event signage and overall beautification of the Western Highway, with traffic being led into Seaby Street and to the central business district, rather than simply passing through.
"The project aims to attract people who would normally just pass through, to take turn off and see what Stawell has to offer," Mrs Bach said.
Economic Development team member, Shelly Chalmers, has been busy establishing the working party along with Mrs Bach, meeting with business operators along the Western Highway to gauge their interest in the project and also their needs.
Ms Chalmers, also a committee member with StawellBiz, said it was important to have this dialogue with the operators.
"Our aim will be to achieve a consistent look along the entire length of the Western Highway through Stawell," she said.
"At the moment, the appearance of the highway changes constantly, as motorists enter the town and then pass through the industrial area. We want to make their experience more pleasant and encourage them to turn off into Seaby Street and head towards the central business district."
As part of the beautification project, myrtle trees will be planted and garden beds constructed along the highway. The plantings will start at the Stawell entrance signs and will form a link at Seaby Street to direct traffic to the Main Street.
Ms Chalmers said staff had already reported a big difference in traffic and had received favourable comments, since the Visitor Information Centre was moved from the highway into the Stawell Gift Hall of Fame.
"Staff are telling us that more visitors are taking the opportunity to drive into town and access visitor information. They can then see the Town Hall and other monuments and it is our aim to ensure they stay a little longer and enjoy what we have to offer."
Ms Chalmers said preparation work for the beautification would be undertaken in October or November, with plantings to take place in March next year.
In the meantime, the new events signage plan would be implemented as soon as possible.
"This is a new initiative that will see events signage at either entrance to Stawell on the highway," Ms Chalmers said.
"The signage will allow us to promote major events that occur annually and also events that occur periodically. There will be three signage spots available at each end and these will be interchangeable. We are excited that this project is very close to starting."
Ms Chalmers said new flags were also being installed on the Western Highway near the Seaby Street intersection and this theme will be continued in the Main Street where new flags will also be installed.
"It won't be long before people really start to notice the changes," Ms Chalmers said.
"This project is about enhancing the visitor experience and drawing more people into our CBD. By working very closely with the committee of StawellBiz, we will work to ensure continued growth in Stawell."