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Dark Sky accreditation blesses the sleepy River Murray township of Swan Reach… when ‘lights out’ is best

Gateway To The Galaxy Accommodation 4 mins read

MEDIA ALERT / MEDIA RELEASE           This Saturday, 2 December Event

 

WHAT: Swan Reach is blessed by being immediately adjacent to one of one of the darkest locations in the World! Because of that a new tourist accommodation project is being launched, as the town celebrates its position within the internationally accredited ‘River Murray International Dark Sky Reserve’. This town is the closest to the reserve’s darkest ‘core site’ tested at the Swan Reach Conservation Park. Learn more about this natural phenomenon and the potential value to our State. This is the biggest tourism accommodation development in the region, presenting eight international quality cabins and a restored historic cottage adjoining the popular classic local hotel.

 

WHEN: Saturday, December 2, at 2pm for a Community Launch by Hon Don Farrell, Federal Minister for Trade & Tourism 

 

WHERE: At Swan Reach ‘Gateway to The Galaxy’ Deluxe Holiday Accommodation, adjoining the Swan Reach Hotel

 

A $3m tourism venture is opening this weekend in the nearest town to the internationally accredited ‘River Murray International Dark Sky Reserve’

 

This Saturday, Hon Don Farrell, Federal Minister for Trade & Tourism, will be at Swan Reach to join with locals to ‘shine a light’ on this new development.

 

Swan Reach, population usually under 500 (except in Summer Holidays), is geographically blessed by being immediately adjacent to one of the darkest locations in the World.  Who would have thought that this unusual reality of nature is making a tiny Australian township globally important in 2023?

 

Through a campaign by the local Mid Murray Landcare SA group, working with the Mid Murray Council and local community and scientific support, this region has been internationally accepted as the ‘River Murray International Dark Sky Reserve’. What makes it even more remarkable as an international tourism attraction is its proximity to a capital city. It is just 90 minutes’ drive from the South Australian capital city of Adelaide.

 

Darkness rating is a technically complex science! Readings inside Swan Reach Conservation Park have been measured at 21.97, among the darkest in the world. By comparison, the best darkness readings in the USA are only 21.7. But the reserve received ‘gold tier’ International accreditation (the highest possible) in 2019. In the Science of Darkness measurement, you need to realise that darkness readings are a logarithmic scale, so 21.9 is actually 100 times darker than 21.8.

 

Behind this development is an Adelaide business identity and philanthropist, now hotel property owner and the developer of Gateway to the Galaxy, John George OAM.

 

He says: “Over 30 years I’ve always been astonished by the wondrous open skies above our family holiday house near Swan Reach. Our family has come here as a retreat from our business pressures and we’ve enjoyed becoming a part of the community”.

 

“Around 1976 our family (John, Margaret with children, Catherine and Paul), purchased a small river ‘shack’ around 7kms south of Swan Reach and so began a long relationship with the Murray River and its people.

 

“In 1989 on the gentle insistence of our friends Lance and the late Lynn Otto, we then purchased the beautiful and significant Silver Lea Homestead (across the river) opposite the town. It became a retreat from our busy lives and it cemented our appreciation of the area.”

 

The encouragement of Lynn Otto eventually led to John becoming involved directly in the community, as Chairman of the Swan Reach Progress Association, from long term committed Chair Kay Schmid, who served this community for 20 Years.

 

Then, in early 2018 John and Margaret saw a ‘for sale’ sign on a block of land adjoining the Swan Reach Hotel and saw that the construction of a quality motel would serve the accommodation starved township of Swan Reach.

 

When the opportunity to purchase the hotel, two years later in a partnership with recognised local hotelier Craig Fromm and his partner Tammie, the plan to create a serious tourism facility resulted in purchasing the hotel property. Fast forward after delays due to Covid, and here we are today to celebrate the opening of Stage One of the accommodation project.

 

Recognising the opportunity of the 2019 accreditation of the adjacent ‘Swan Reach Conservation Park’ as the first formally recognised International Dark Sky Reserve at gold star standard in Australia, they began working with the Mid Murray Council that had already established a committee to expand on this rare appointment. The two families (George & Fromm) are committed to developing accommodation initiatives well beyond the project’s stage one, to serve local and overseas tourists expected to visit Swan Reach to experience its unique Dark Sky status by working with locally experienced guides.

 

“We’re working together to make Swan Reach an amazing place to visit and stay,” said John.

 

A ‘Core Site’ for the River Murray International Dark Sky Reserve is the Swan Reach Conservation Park – an area of 2000 hectares of untouched Mallee bushland, managed and protected by the South Australian Government. Why is this one of the darkest locations in the world? The RMIDSR consistently measures an exceptional level of darkness, commonly about 21.8 (theoretical maximum darkness is 22) and in some areas achieving the remarkable darkness measure of 21.97. This is considered unique with its proximity and accessibility to a major city.

 

A main reason comes from the Mount Lofty Ranges, that act as a natural barrier shielding the Western edge of the Dark Sky Reserve from urban lighting of Adelaide. The Eastern Hills Face Zone also limits development in the Adelaide Hills and further protects the reserve. Additionally, the Murray River, Lakes and Coorong region, in which the Reserve is located, also enhance the darkness with unpolluted skies, high quality of vision, low population and lack of major development. Policies regarding artificial light and future development are also now in place thanks to the Mid Murray Council, which ensures this Reserve is protected.

 

Contacts for Interviews

 

John George OAM: 0414 824 232, john@mga.com

Chris Tugwell, Chairman, Mid Murray Landcare SA & River Murray International Dark Sky Reserve, 0414 926 539 chair@midmurraylandcaresa.org.au

Don Bursill (Scientific Advisor, former SA Chief Scientist) 0418830663, donbursill@bigpond.com

 

Media background, Mike O’Reilly, 0414 882 505 (mike@oreillyconsulting.com)


Key Facts:

A $3m tourism venture is opening this weekend in the nearest town to the internationally accredited ‘River Murray International Dark Sky Reserve’

 

This Saturday, Hon Don Farrell, Federal Minister for Trade & Tourism, will be at Swan Reach to join with locals to ‘shine a light’ on this new development.

 


Contact details:

Mike O’Reilly, 0414 882 505 (mike@oreillyconsulting.com)

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