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Gumeracha’s grassroots efforts boost town pride

Regional

Community driven efforts to improve the streetscape and create a buzz for local businesses has brought about meaningful change to the small Adelaide Hills town.

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The town’s centre is undergoing a $4 million transformation through the undergrounding of powerlines, stormwater works, streetscaping and the installation of public art.

Community group, the Gumeracha Main Street Project Group, has been advocating for the upgrades to Albert Street since forming in 2016 with the idea of making the town look better to help boost local business.

The group partnered with the Adelaide Hills Council to apply for funding towards the upgrades and was successful in receiving a grant from the Department of Transport as well as the Federal Government’s Building Better Regions Fund.

Acting chairperson Joel Taggart says the works would never have been carried out if it weren’t for the foresight of the grassroots renewal project.

“The aim was to make the town more beautiful which would hopefully attract more tourists and businesses,” he says.

“It’s obviously a hard gig to run a business in such a small town with a limited population, so we need outsiders to prop up the businesses and make them viable and sustainable.

“There are also some safety benefits from undergrounding powerlines in terms of improving road and bushfire safety.”

Adelaide Hills Mayor Jan-Claire Wisdom watches the works on the main street of Gumeracha.

The Gumeracha Main Street Project Group was formed by local Chelsea Lewis who drew inspiration from fellow community group Imagine Uraidla, which won the 2020 PIRSA Regional Resilience Award at last year’s Regional Showcase Awards for the revitalisation of Uraidla’s main street.

Chelsea called a town meeting to discuss Gumeracha’s vision for Albert Street and how to make it safer, more beautiful and better connected.

Gumeracha is mostly known for being home to popular tourist attraction The Big Rocking Horse, however, its main street had remained tired and in need of revitalisation for many years.

A working group was established and since then about a dozen volunteers have helped form partnerships with all tiers of government, local businesses and the community to create positive change.

A masterplan for the precinct was also drawn up and endorsed by the council – which has committed $2 million to the project.

Adelaide Hills Mayor Jan-Claire Wisdom says the motivation and enthusiasm of the volunteers have driven the changes that are now coming to fruition.

“The commitment and passion of our community is something that I’m very proud of right across the district,” she says.

“Local volunteers are critical in bringing the community together to support projects and get real outcomes for their townships.

“It not only brings about successes like the beautification of a main street, but creates community connections and builds resilience that benefits the community long after a project is complete.”

While the powerlines project and stormwater system were completed recently, further upgrades including road resealing will continue for the rest of 2021.

Other improvements brought about by the group include the installation of indigenous artwork, new street trees, seating and public crossings.

Planter boxes have been replanted, bus shelters upgraded and sculptures unveiled.

A number of events are also driven by the volunteer group including the popular Winter Solstice event and the Gumeracha Fifth Sunday Market, both drawing in impressive numbers of visitors from outside the town.

Joel, who has been a part of the Gumeracha Main Street Project Group from the beginning, says business in the main street has consistently improved over the years.

“Within maybe a year of our group’s initial meeting, there seemed to be a lot more confidence in the business sector,” he says.

“The Good Pantry café opened and at the same time an art gallery/studio opened up as well.

“Two years later and a few businesses including the hotel, general store, butcher, chemist and takeaway shop, all changed hands with new, passionate owners.

“Gumeracha is definitely a lot busier than it has been in the past and has a stronger sense of community than before.”

Local café owner and member of the Gumeracha Main Street Project Group Danielle Morris agrees there has been a boost in optimism around town.

“I’d have to say it was the spark of the Gumeracha Main Street Project bringing the community together to see and hear what people wanted that gave me the push to open up a business in the town,” says Danielle, who owns the wholefoods and coffee shop The Good Pantry.

“Running a business here is really special, I get the freedom of living and working in the country and constantly meeting new people from the city when they escape for the day.”

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