When it comes to attractions that will induce people to turn off the highway and call into Bowen, you'd expect the Front Beach/ Bowen Foreshore redevelopment to figure fairly prominently in discussions.

After months of observation from outside the barriers it was a pleasant change to be able to include the jetty and Santa Barbara Parade in the morning walk. What's there now is a vast improvement on what was there before, and the redevelopment is going to play a significant part in local residents' recreational activities over the next few years.

On the other hand, at least in its present configuration, it's hardly likely to bring people in from the highway unless they arrive on the doorstep with a pre-existing motive for making the detour.

The Catalina/World War Two end of the development will probably attract the odd military history afficionado, and while the movie memorabilia behind the Sound Shell will attract its share of visitors those numbers won't be as large as they might have been if Australia had been an Oscar-winning smash hit.

The rest of the development is pretty classy, but in an environment where a similar development is de rigeur for any significant coastal centre the Front Beach is smaller than many (hardly surprising, given relative populations) and more or less on a par with most.

There will, of course, be a number of further developments in the area which will make it a more attractive proposition, but they're still probably going to attract local residents rather than out-of-town visitors.

Actually I suspect that spruiking the virtues of the Front Beach redevelopment is going to have less impact on visitor numbers than word-of-mouth through the grey nomad and backpacker communities,

That means, at least as far as I can see, that we're better off developing the recreational open space around town for use by local residents and visitors and relying on favourable impressions and the grapevine to boost visitor numbers.

For sure we'll be seeing developments going in beside the Front Beach, and there'll almost certainly be bars, restaurants and residential units in the mix.

Those places will need to rely on local support to pay the bills, and while out-of-towners will provide the icing on the cake unless they're attracting substantial local custom you're going to find the 'closing down' signs going up.

Of course, if there are a couple of decent eateries looking out over the bay they can expect to generate significant word-of-mouth action from people who have called in to check out the Front Beach and stopped for lunch or dinner.

Along with those who are prompted to make a detour by some well-designed and prominently places promotional material on the highway, of course.

But I wouldn't be holding my breath waiting for a massive visitor influx. It might happen, but I suspect that we're better off looking after the locals and taking any increase in out-of-towners as a welcome but unexpected bonus.

The Front Beach and the developing network of parks and walkways between Yasso Point and Horseshoe Bay are a pretty good start as far as public recreational space is concerned.

What we need is a gradual extension of the existing spaces to the point where, perhaps, we've got an network of parks, walking tracks, bikeways and other facilities covering a large slice of the area from the Front Beach around to Yasso Point taking in Flagstaff Hill and Horseshoe Bay along the way.

Looking at things that way, you'd think that an extension of the Front Beach development around the back of the proposed marina development over Magazine Creek towards Flagstaff Hill would be a pretty logical move.

That's not suggesting that you'd look at spending mega-dollars along the way, of course. You'd start with a walking track and bikeway that'd take people to the foot of Flagstaff Hill without setting foot on the roadway.

Along the way there might be space for the odd extra enhancement, but you'd expect to focus on the destination rather than the route you'd use to get there.

Hopefully, that'd make Flagstaff Hill and the Interpretative Centre up there more accessible. You could walk there along these new tracks, and a car park at the foot of the hill at Kings Beach would give people the option of driving there and going for a climb or wander along the beach towards Rose Bay. Something similar at the end of Kings Beach Road would probably work as well.

If those places were linked by a couple of further walking tracks/bikeways you'd be opening a couple of other exercise options for local residents.

Now, I'm no expert on government grants, but given the emphasis that's being given to developing healthy lifestyles I'd be surprised if you couldn't crack some of the funding needed for these things from State and federal government coffers.

As far as I can make out, most of the wetland behind Kings Beach is going to stay the way it is, more or less in perpetuity, so what you'd end up with would be, in effect, a substantial nature reserve with access routes that allow pedestrians and cyclists to pass through the area.

You'd also expect that there'd be a number of small developments along the pathways as people identified points of interest that could be developed or enhanced. That might be as little as a seat under a shady tree, a grassed area that'd suit picnickers or a sign indicating a site of possible interest.

It'd be a slow gradual process, but as some of that infrastructure extended beyond what we've got already we're generating recreational areas that may well interest visitors and add a few more excuses for them to contribute to the word-of-mouth publicity that may well induce increasing numbers to turn off the highway.