This is sponsored content for Gorge Scenic Chairlifts.
It was a drive to share the beauty of the Cataract Gorge Reserve and provide access for as many people as possible that motivated Barry Larter to build the Gorge Scenic Chairlift back in 1972.
Now 47 years later, it's that same drive that is behind the Larter family's proposal to build The Launceston Skyway, a new gondola skyway in the gorge to enhance the visitor experience for all ages and abilities.
It's a proposal that has already drawn a passionate response from the community.
"We always believed this project would invoke passion from many levels, which is great and we want people to voice their opinions and be part of the process," said Launceston Skyway project's David Larter.
"As we've followed due process, we've always been open and honest, and endeavoured to provide the most accurate information that we can. Even so there's a lot of inaccurate information about the proposal being spread around, and we want to make sure the public has the facts before making up their own minds about it."
The Launceston Skyway is currently awaiting direction from the Launceston City Council to move forward with the project.
The Larter family first started looking into development options back in 2012, initially planning to upgrade the chairlift. While some additions to the gorge over the years have improved accessibility, there are many parts which are still difficult to access for those who have a disability or are mobility impaired, and families.
"Because of the design of the current chairlift, there is no possible way of refurbishing it or upgrading it with cabins," said David.
"It would have meant a complete new build with a greater immediate impact on the existing gardens park and surroundings. Remember the chairlift is almost 50 years old and while it was ahead of its time back then, refurbishing it or upgrading it with cabins now is not possible."
Inspired by a gondola system in Sweden which can turn corners, they found a solution that would provide a way for visitors to continue to enjoy the gorge in all-weather comfort and in groups of up to eight with most of the infrastructure outside the gorge itself.
"One of our biggest issues is the current chairlift doesn't provide shelter and families can't all ride together," said David.
"We want to be able to provide a better experience for people of all abilities."
They set about researching the idea and put together a proposal, dubbed The Launceston Skyway. Because of their love for the area, preserving the natural beauty of the gorge has always been at the forefront of every decision.
"Like it is for many others, the gorge is an extremely special place to myself and my family," said Barry Larter, having grown up around the Gorge.
"It is essential to us that the Skyway does more than just create unforgettable experiences. It also needs to complement the area we call our backyard."
The Launceston Skyway's unique design requires a single station and a single cable, which is only 43mm in diameter. It will carry up to 24 gondolas, depending on demand, all of which will be removed and stored overnight or when not in use.
"Carrying up to eight adults each, the gondolas will be 2 metres wide, 2 metres long and 2.1 metres high, and will be accessible to all ages and mobility levels, including prams, wheelchairs and even some motorised vehicles," said David.
Spaced at 89 metres apart, the gondolas will float peacefully above the basin. The trip will take around 25 minutes, allowing enough time for visitors to enjoy the beautiful features of the Cataract Gorge Reserve and the distant views of Launceston beyond. They will blend into their surrounds with transparent windows on all sides.
"The entire project has been designed to blend effortlessly into the natural facade and complement the gorge and is the result of extensive research and consultation," said David Larter.
"And the new gondolas will not be any closer to visitors than the existing chairlift, so visitors will be able to continue to enjoy the pool, barbecues, walks and relaxation areas as they do now."
The proposal has also been designed to minimise the visibility of towers in the first basin, with the locations of the towers on the surrounding hills positioned well down from the top of the hill to sit within the tree line, which creates less visual impact than the high voltage power lines that sit beyond.
The $20 million Launceston Skyway project will be entirely privately funded by the Larter family.
"Contrary to rumour, people need to understand the land is not gifted or sold to the Launceston Skyway. It will always remain owned by the council.
"And like any other business that operates on council land, we will pay a lease to operate, similar to the current arrangement with the Gorge Scenic Chairlift," said David.
Deloitte Access Economics were engaged to do an independent study into the effect the Skyway would have on the economy. Their results projected an increase in visitor spend, visitor nights, plus both direct and indirect employment. Independent environmental impact assessments were also carried out, and all of the reports are available on their website at launcestonskyway.com.au.
"Community opinion and comment is important with any development in our city. We have been overwhelmed and heartened by the level of support that we have received and the enthusiasm that is being shown by the public," said Barry Larter.
"It is great to see people voicing their support for a development that will greatly enhance Launceston's offering as a tourist destination. We are encouraged by this support to continue with our proposal."
To keep up to date with the project go to The Launceston Skyway website launcestonskyway.com.au or find them on Facebook.
This is sponsored content for Gorge Scenic Chairlifts.