Tourists like to learn

BUTTERFLIES are free, but making a go of ecotourism requires a lot of work on the ground before the industry can take off.

Ecotourism was one of the big ideas floated at the second community forum last month to improve the future of Coffs Harbour.

The vice president of Tourism Coffs Coast, Fiona Bardon, is also the owner of the Coffs Harbour Butterfly House, which offers visitors the opportunity to see hundreds of the colourful insects flying freely inside a temperature-controlled conservatorium.

Mrs Bardon said one of the things visitors to her Bonville attraction enjoyed was standing on the grass looking at her neighbour's cows, which had nothing to do with the main feature of her attraction, while other visitors were 'petrified' by a little grass snake crossing the path.

"The challenge is how to interweave those two experiences," she said.

"Information is priceless and to my mind that is what we lack most on the Coffs Coast."

She would like to see more guided walks and some five-star lodges in the area, offering a whole range of experiences in the bush using solar power, composting toilets and comfortable accommodation.

More simply, she would love to be able to offer her visitors a bushwalking book, which set out tracks and walks they can enjoy after they leave the Butterfly House and head off into the coastal valleys.

She has been in Coffs Harbour for 11 years and says on a recent guided tour with ecologist and Coffs Harbour city councillor Mark Graham; she saw things she did not know existed in the area.

She said Port Macquarie's Sea Acres had a signposted walking track so strollers knew what they were looking at and she would like to see similar features along the Coffs Creek Cycleway.

She said in many cases Coffs Coast residents assumed visitors knew much more than they actually did.

"People don't want to be 'educated' but they love to learn," she said.

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