One area where Bowen is currently well served is what could be labelled “recreational facilities.”

For a start there’s the Col Leather Sporting Complex on Woodlands Road, home to the local soccer, rugby, netball, cricket and athletics clubs. It’s the result of a lot of hard work by some dedicated workers and substantial support from the former Bowen Shire Council and has developed into the sort of facility that can comfortably host regional carnivals for most of the sports currently located there.

During my involvement with local primary school and junior cricket we regularly hosted visiting teams from out of town and I heard frequent comments along the lines of “I wish we had a complex like this in (insert name of almost every visiting centre here).”

Apart from the Sporting Complex there’s also the rugby league/touch football set-up at Denison Park, an area that was used by a number of other sporting bodies in the years before the Complex was developed.

The current golf course with its view out over the water occupies land that real estate developers would probably give their eye teeth for, and the second course proposed for Whitsunday Shores will ensure that the golfing fraternity are amply catered for well into the future.

At times we forget the economic impact sports facilities can have on the town, particularly if we’re looking for events that will bring visitors into town.

Once you turn your attention away from sporting facilities the picture is also pretty bright.

The Showgrounds, while under-used, are the sort of facility that will be able to host functions that require a show ring or undercover pavilions in the future.

We probably don’t pay as much attention as we should to the bird life and other attractions at Mullers Lagoon, but it’s a priceless community asset now and will be invaluable in the future.

Then there are the parklands along the waterfront at Queens Beach. Hansen Park and Case Park are the better known ones, but the walks that take you to Horseshoe Bay and the sweeping expanse of open land with the odd spot of low rise development that is generally below tree height makes the view across from Gray’s Bay something wonderful.

While the operators of the eatery in the interpretative centre on top of Flagstaff Hill would probably prefer to have a few more customers, that should come if the Front Beach development is successful in encouraging people to turn off the highway and come into town.

So, overall the picture is pretty bright. But it could be brighter.

The current sporting facilities are more than adequate at the moment, but will need room to grow if, as predicted, the town’s population doubles. If the population trebles we’re probably looking at new areas being developed rather than existing areas being extended.

So where are those new facilities going to go?

Somehow I don’t think developers will be too interested in donating substantial areas of land that could be subdivided and sold.

Facilities at the Sporting Complex could be expanded onto the race course, but there have been unsuccessful attempts to do things like that in the past.

Looking at the facilities at the Sporting Complex it’s safe to assume that once the existing sporting bodies start adding extra playing fields to accommodate the extra teams that follow population growth there won’t be a lot of room left for additional sporting bodies to develop their own facilities on ground that they’d have to share with another sport.

The logical area to develop additional sporting facilities is the area between Denison Park and Kings Beach.

It’s not as if we’re likely to be needing all that space for sporting fields. Far from it. But the area has enough room to accommodate additional sports fields as well as extra recreational space, walking tracks and so on.

We already have a substantial area of public parkland and recreational space between the mouth of the Don and Horseshoe Bay. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could develop more of the same between Horseshoe Bay and Flagstaff Hill?

If the Council’s Parks budget is capable of looking after existing recreational facilities, presumably as the population doubles the area that can be looked after will double as well. The area I’m talking about is way in excess of that, but you’d think that if Council developed a couple of key areas those could be gradually expanded through government grants and community involvement.

However that won’t happen if the current Bowen Land Evaluation Project being conducted by the Department of Water and Natural Resources decides that the area is suitable for residential development.

As I’ve suggested elsewhere, a community can never have enough open space and once it’s gone, it’s gone and you won’t be able to get it back.

Again, recreational facilities are an area where strategic planning is needed before the extra population arrives on our doorstep. and once they’ve been developed if the facilities are properly marketed they’ll provide another avenue to bring visitors into town.