31 August 2023

Controversial RV Rest Area to remain open in peak periods

| Matt Nicholls
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Cook Shire has voted to keep the RV Rest Area open, but only during the peak tourist season.

COOK Shire Council has voted to keep the free RV rest area operating at the racecourse, but only during Cooktown’s busiest periods.

Following lobbying from the Cooktown Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, the council was asked to decide the future of the site.

The chamber said the RV rest area had a financial impact on caravan parks in the local area.

However, the council said it was important for Cook Shire to be considered an “RV Friendly Town” and instead voted on a compromise.

Self-sufficient RV campers will only be able to stay at the Cooktown Amateur Turf Club from the start of the June school holidays until the end of August.

Mayor Peter Scott said it was a reasonable compromise as there were pros and cons to permanently closing the site.

“We want to send a message to those with RVs that they are welcome and having this site available does do that,” he said.

“We also want to support the local caravan parks and camping grounds and we think that by only having it open during peak periods should help them.”

Cooktown has previously had issues with overflow camping, which led to some bypassing the town or illegally camping, the mayor said.

Russell Bowman, the newly-elected president of the Cooktown Chamber of Commerce, said the call to close the RV rest area was made to support the growing local businesses.

“In the last three or four years we’ve seen significant investment in infrastructure at a number of new or upgraded camp sites,” he said.

“In Cooktown, the caravan parks probably only have a couple of months where they can expect full occupancy.

“In a good season they’ll be at 75 to 80 per cent capacity, then once you go outside that to the shoulder seasons it can be a lot quieter.

“It would be nice to do a full season without the RV rest area and see how full all of the others ended up with a few new places that have popped up.”

Mr Bowman said he supported the racecourse being used as an overflow area, but only when the local businesses were close to capacity.

The owner of The Lure Shop said the chamber and local tourism businesses were trying to grow visitor numbers outside the usual peak periods.

“There’s been a push to have the ‘green season’ or ‘fishing season’ to bring people from the northern region in to enjoy whatever nature has to offer,” he said.

“Whether that’s bushwalking and looking at waterfalls and birdwatching, or going to the reef, it still brings a different wallet into town to help support the businesses in what can be a quieter time of year.”

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