The Conservation Department is planning a $2 million upgrade of the campsite at Momorangi Bay with the help of residents and campers.
The department is designing an overhaul of the site, which sits along Queen Charlotte Drive, about 30 minutes drive west of Picton, and plans include new facilities such as toilet blocks, a seminar room, and a revised camping site layout, with work scheduled to begin later this year.
The plans were drawn up by Nelson-based landscape design company Tasman Carter in January, following a department survey canvassing the feelings of more than 1400 campers in December.
The department's focus also includes a conservation programme to restore the bay's ecosystem by replenishing the environment with native trees.
Conservation Department visitor and historic assets programme manager Mark Nelson said the programme, headed by the department but ultimately intended to be guided by long-term campers and the community, will offer campers and residents the chance to sponsor a tree and help plant the area's future.
The bay was extensively farmed in the early 1900s and the area's ecosystem was destroyed. Some of the coloniser trees have since regrown but the department will need help to replant larger trees.
"During all those years of farming, the trees were burnt off repeatedly - the whole area to the skyline was destroyed," Mr Nelson said.
"The trees began to regenerate in the early 1960s but what we've got now is just a whole lot of colonising trees. There are no big canopy trees - the eco-system has stalled and it's like someone's pressed the pause button.
"When birds bring the seeds from the big canopies like rimu, matai or kahikatea, the rats and possums and goats all eat the seedlings and there's no further development."
Botanist Shannel Courtney surveyed the area and offered advice to the department which began sourcing seeds to grow about 30 trees for each of the 15 desired species to rebuild the canopy.
The trees will grow in a predator trap-protected area at the back of the campsite and will be redistributed around the camp.
Much of the site's layout plan and conservation programme were based on the results of a department survey of 1400 campers which asked them what they liked about the site and what they wanted changed.
Though parts of the plan were still being tweaked, it was hoped the resource consent application process for stage one of the work, which largely involved construction of the buildings, would be lodged by April.
The second stage covered landscaping work and development of the foreshore, scheduled to begin in 2014.
"We're really hoping that people will just get involved and make the most of it. It's a big project and it'll benefit the campers and people from the rest of Marlborough.
"The campers told us the most important thing to them is the relaxed atmosphere and that's not going to change.
"For us, it's about starting something now to give people a physical buy-in to the place. If their grandparents had started it 50 years ago, it would all be very different now."
The $17 per night campsite's space will reduce from 136 sites to 132. The four sites will be taken off the foreshore to allow better access to the western end of the beach.
Part of the stage one building development phase will feature the construction of a seminar area where speeches and meetings will be held by conservationists for campers and the community.
The department also planned to introduce children's educational activities such as studying the species and water quality in nearby streams.
"It will give the people that come here the opportunity to learn about trees that need to be planted, eco-sourcing, and water control.
"We have campers that have been coming here for 60 years and we want to work with them so we asked ourselves, ‘What can we do to make this more than a campsite?'
"We don't want to just do hodges and podges. We want to make this somewhere really unique for people to relax, enjoy and learn about the environment around them if they want to."
The site layout will take into account the ongoing establishment of the Link Pathway which follows an old bridle track along Queen Charlotte Drive from Picton to Havelock.
The path is intended to feature a detour to Anakiwa which will connect it to the Queen Charlotte Track and will hopefully be completed by 2020.
- The Marlborough Express
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