A big brown sign on the northern entrance to tourist-reliant Katherine still directs people to the Springvale tourist park.
The old stone homestead, built of local stone 139 years ago, is the oldest original homestead still standing in the whole of the Northern Territory.
As well, the homestead is dwarfed by incredibly large trees, also more than a century old, which the owner believes are the largest in the NT.
All reasons why people would want to visit Springvale.
Except it has been closed for years now, and the way things are travelling, it could stay that way until someone in authority champions its cause.
Despite his many years in Australia, Werner Sarny still holds to his thick Austrian accent.
Werner, owner of Travel North, deserves the title as the king of tourism in Katherine.
The Jawoyn Association afforded him the honour of speaking at its recent celebrations at Nitmiluk Gorge celebrating its handover to the traditional owners.
For many years Werner pioneered the now regular water tours of the gorge, visited by a quarter of a million visitors each year.
His real passion however lies with Springvale, the old homestead he transformed into a tourist park in 1973.
Tens of thousands of people have stayed at Springvale with its Croc Spot tours, accommodation blocks, powered sites, historic graves, wedding receptions and tours.
Cars still drive up to the gate, just a few kilometres from Katherine’s town centre, each day.
Werner says some people want to see where their parents were married, or have long had the old homestead and the giant trees on their tourist bucket list.
Now the park is rapidly falling into ruin.
The units are now likely beyond restoration, the path down to the Katherine River jetty is overgrown, the pool has lost its sparkle.
Only the homestead, with its startlingly thick walls, has survived the long closure really well.
But it would still need some work before the public could swarm again.
The trees, oh those trees, they appears like something from a Lord of the Rings movie, but dead branches need removal for safety reasons before the public can admire their grandeur again.
Werner is not giving up, while his is alive anyway, and really needs help to cut through the red tape.
The public should be allowed to visit the homestead, have their pictures taken with the Indian Rain trees, Katherine needs as many weapons in its tourist arsenal as it can muster.
Springvale needs to come from the “what a shame” basket, into a “what can we do to help” reality.
Springvale deserves it, and after all the work Werner has done over the years to promote tourism in this region, so does he.
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