By Derek Schlennstedt
As technology takes over various visitor information centres around the Yarra Ranges, one visitor information centre continues to see growth.
The Warburton Waterwheel Visitor Information Centre has consistently shown an increase in foot traffic of 25 per cent every year for the past five years under the Community Economic Development Association (CEDA) ownership.
While Ferntree Gully and Healesville Visitor Information centres closed down, the Warburton Waterwheel has recorded its highest number of visitors through their doors in 2016.
The waterwheel reported that more than 35,000 visitors passed through their doors in 2016, and recently in February celebrated their fifth birthday under CEDA ownership.
CEDA secretary and treasurer Geoff Vickers said part of the success was the esoteric business model and unique housing which had been applied to the visitor centre.
“With support by CEDA, the Warburton and Yarra Junction Community Bank branches and more than 20 volunteers, together with the multi-faceted business model we have established there (with art gallery, Handmade shop, indoor forest), and our iconic building and location seem to make a difference,” Mr Vickers said.
CEDA president Peta Godenzi noted that the waterwheel wasn’t just an ‘information centre’.
“It is an info centre, but we’ve got retail as well,” she said.
“We’ve got the art gallery, where artists can hire that space for three weeks at a time, and that’s booked up six months in advance.”
“It allows local artists and artisans to showcase their products.”
Peta praises the 20 volunteers at the waterwheel who, she said, were extremely knowledgeable and helpful.
“Our volunteers are knowledgeable, enthusiastic and welcoming; we’re very fortunate we’ve got such great volunteers for the info centre,” she said.
“Some public holidays we can have over 700 people go through.”