By Kirra Grimes
A NEW project celebrating the unique natural history of Bass Coast could turn an “undercapitalised asset” into an international tourism drawcard and engaging educational resource for generations to come.
Envisioned by local geologist and Bunurong Coast Education Officer Mike Cleeland, the Bass Coast Dinosaurs Trail would see a series of permanent installations at selected sites along the coast, representing the dinosaurs that lived in these places around 125 million years ago.
Suggested locations include Kilcunda, where the herbivore Serendipaceratops arthurcclarkei was discovered in 1993; San Remo, where the amphibious carnivore Koolasuchus cleelandi was discovered in 1990; and Inverloch, where geologist William Ferguson found Australia’s first dinosaur fossil in 1903, and subsequently, two dinosaur species have been discovered that do not occur anywhere else in the world (Qantassaurus intrepidus in 1999, and Galleonosaurus dorisae in 2019).
What exactly the installations would look like is still up for consideration, but ideas so far include life-size bronze or concrete statues, children’s play equipment, and smartphone-activated electronic displays.
In presenting the idea to Bass Coast Shire Council last week, Mike said the aim was to educate residents and visitors about the diversity of Antarctic dinosaur fauna in the Bass Coast region, in turn increasing a sense of belonging to a shared cultural heritage, understanding of ecological issues, and connection to the natural world.
Using the examples of the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum in Winton, QLD, named Queensland’s best major tourist attraction in 2016, and the world heritage listed Jurassic Coast of Devon, England, Mike said the trail had the potential to attract scores of keen dinosaur hunters from across the world, boosting the local economy by dispersing flow of visitors across a wide section of the shire.
The installations would promote “imaginative engagement with the landscape” for all age groups, demographics and socioeconomic backgrounds, and design and construction of the trail would also provide work for local fabricators and artists, he said.
“The dinosaur heritage of the area is an undercapitalised cultural asset that holds massive potential to value add to visitor experiences, as well as attract new visitors,” he said.
In response to the presentation, Bass Coast Mayor Cr Brett Tessari said the trail represented a “massive opportunity” and “we’d be missing out if we weren’t tapping into it”.
He asked what council could do to help get the project off the ground, to which Mike responded that budgeting and grant application assistance would be welcomed at this stage, as well as figuring out exactly who owns what in terms of land along the coast.
“Ultimately, a funding proposal will land on your desk. At the moment, it’s about developing it further and getting a better idea of costings and what we’d like to see. We welcome input,” Mike said.
With bronze statues similar to those at Winton’s dinosaur museum valued at between $30,000-$40,000 each, Mike said it was “not necessary to do it all in one go,” especially as new discoveries were happening all the time, such as an as yet unidentified fossil Mike found prospecting west of Kilcunda last weekend.
“New dinosaurs may pop up before it’s finished, and there are things that have been found that haven’t been named yet, that scientists are still working on,” he said.
There are no plans at this stage to extend the trail to Phillip Island, as the basalt lava covering the island has prevented significant dinosaur discoveries there to date, Mike said.