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Persistence pays off for Wickliffe

For more than a decade, the Wickliffe community has dreamed of having some kind of focal point for travellers stopping to stretch their legs in the small town.

Through its Community Action Plan created in 2005, this vision has now been realized in the guise of a sheltered barbecue area, notice board and public toilets constructed in 2006.

According to (past) Wickliffe Action Group member Miep Wortel, the Group had unsuccessfully applied for Ararat Rural City Council funding in the past. But all that changed in 2005.

“When we heard about Regional Development Victoria’s Small Town Development Fund, we approached them for a grant. They suggested we talk to the Greater Green Triangle because they couldn’t really warrant a large amount of money for such a small town,” she said.

“Greater Green Triangle was very interested in the project and asked what we wanted. We said a lot of people came to see the town’s fantastic old bluestone church and it would be good to have a shelter and toilets for when they stopped by. Then I thought a notice board would also be good.”

Greater Green Triangle secured $16,000 on behalf of the Group under the Federal Government’s Regional Partnership Program, Regional Development Victoria contributed $20,000 as part of its Small Town Development Fund and Council contributed $10,000. The local CFA also donated $3,500 and $1,500 was donated in-kind from the community.

Council built the shelter and three public toilets with the support of about 15 local volunteers. The notice board was also erected by Council in 2002 as a 150th birthday present to the people of Wickliffe.

“There were a couple of challenges along the way,” Miep said. “The drought meant the project fell a bit by the wayside and Council couldn’t start the project when we first hoped due to the Lake Bolac storm. They had to finish other things first.”

But the final unveiling was worth the wait, says Miep.

“We’ve had an unbelievable reaction and there are a lot of people stopping to use the facilities. Everyone thinks it’s the best thing since sliced bread.”

As a special touch, pavers in the sheltered barbecue area bear the names of long-time residents of Wickliffe, adding another element to the town’s historical attractions which are pin-pointed on the notice board.

The Wickliffe Recreation Reserve Committee was also involved in the project, mainly to provide the Wickliffe Action Group with financial management resources.

Committee member Peter Remfrey said the committee had been happy to lend a hand.

“From the start we had a few objectives that were similar for the town so we took it upon ourselves to help them out and swap ideas. They didn’t have a proper committee set up to handle some of the aspects like finance.”

Peter said the regular usage of the facilities since their opening was a fair indication of the project’s success.

“Obviously there was a need for it. It’s the first new facility for Wickliffe in many years and it’s good to see the Wickliffe Action Group continuing on and organising a proper committee to improve the site and other sites in the town.

“It’s also great to see the town’s involvement … taking a bit of pride in their surrounds. We’ve realised that we can do these sorts of things by pulling together.”