Uncertain times and difficult decisions
As most of you know, the Light to Light Walk in Ben Boyd National Park was severely impacted by the Border Fire that raged through the area on 4th January 2020.
Early assessments from NPWS suggested the damage was so widespread, that it may take years to re-establish the track as we knew it.
“On 6th May 2020, we received an email from NPWS stating ‘the estimated reopening of the Light to Light Walk will start in 2021 and be completed by 2022‘. That forced us to urgently revise our business model as we could no longer operate as we had in the past.” [Jenny Robb, Owner/Operator – Light to Light Camps]
Both Arthur and I, together with our casual staff, were naturally reeling to be told this news in this way. No phone call, not even the name of the email’s author. Just “Business Development Team, Visitor Experience Branch, NPWS”. This email and the news it contained changed the course of our business forever.
Last week, after deciding not to renew our EcoPass, we were told that works had already begun and the section between Saltwater and Bittangabee may now open in October 2020, and the Boyd’s Tower to Saltwater section in November.
It was merely a matter of “too little, too late”.
Will we change our plans – again?
After much soul-searching we felt that operating in this continuously uncertain environment was just too difficult. Even before the fires, we’d had to deal with all sorts of issues that National Parks seemed unable to assist with:
- an inefficient online booking system that was fraught with issues (in a place that has virtually no mobile service), regularly ignored by nomadic caravaners who would drive in, decide to stay and set up on the nearest vacant site, often the one we’d booked and paid for. On two occasions, the campsite was full and we had to take our guests back to our home to stay the night;
- drop toilets with no fans, often full of swarming insects, and sometimes no water in the tanks for handwashing. Not a great look when you’re wanting to offer a 5 star experience (especially compared with fully composting toilets we have used);
- the occasional “doof doof” party, bunches of drunken folks smashing glasses and teasing the native animals. No NPWS staff presence on site made this a fairly regular occurrence;
- fires burning on Total Fire Ban days and sometimes left unattended in strong hot winds.
- The list goes on…..
To operate a successful business needs certainty and at least some level of control by the owner. This was just not possible and despite several years of trying to engage with NPWS, we have decided to walk away.
What about the Light to Light Great Walk project?
Aside from our business issues, as locals we are still very concerned about the plans to go ahead with the “Light to Light Great Walk” project. Our future was always threatened by this plan so together with the post-fire situation, it is just another (very big) reason to work from home.
So now what for Light to Light Camps?
The May email stirred us into action immediately and we have been working flat out to ‘pivot‘ our business.
You can read all about our new experiences right here. We’d love you to join us!
We are considering still offering transfers to the start/end of the Light to Light Walk for independent walkers and will keep the website live for that reason.
Last but not least – THANK YOU!
We are so grateful to the wonderful people who came on tour with us. We met some incredibly interesting and just downright ‘nice’ people and those memories will live on for us.
Thank you – to all of you – and to our staff, friends and supporters.
We’d like to extend a special thanks to the National Parks local staff who did all they could to help us but (we felt) were always facing challenges in terms of resourcing, lack of time, budget constraints and more. We are eternally grateful that you did all you could to support our endeavours. Keep up the great work and we hope you are better supported into the future.
Feel free to give us a call if you have any queries on 0429 961047. Cheers, Jen & Arthur