With its huge stone fireplace and reputation for lively gatherings, the Cotter Pub was a cherished landmark for a generation of Canberrans before it was destroyed by fire in 2003. Now a community group is working on a plan to bring the area back to life.
The team behind the Cotter Hub project have begun negotiations with the ACT government to build a restaurant, micro-brewery and conference facilities on the site of the old pub. Eventually they hope to see up to 10 treetop style cabins built alongside the Cotter River as part of the plan to bring more activity to the once-popular recreation area.
The Cotter region, to Canberra's west, was particularly hard hit in 2003, when a large firestorm swept through. After the fires, the ACT government invested heavily in restoring the once-popular Canberra swimming and barbecue spot, including constructing discovery trails associated with the expansion of the Cotter Dam. But a year after the fires, then Chief Minister Jon Stanhope said he thought it was unlikely the pub would be rebuilt as it did not fit in with the ambience of the Cotter.
"It took about 10 years after the fire for people to start coming back, but I think mother nature has recovered, times have changed and it's time to try again," Cotter Hub director Simone Hunter said.
"Before the fires this area was always full of people, swimming in the river, enjoying the facilities, and there's a whole generation of younger Canberrans that have missed out on that experience, we want to open it back up to them," Ms Hunter said.
The group's submission to the ACT government's investment arm, Invest Canberra, shows plans for a boutique, family friendly precinct that would also serve as a base for outdoor activities including horse riding, mountain biking and bushwalking. Ms Hunter said they did not want to recreate what used to be on the site, rather provide an environmentally sensitive development that would draw tourists and make it easier for Canberrans to reconnect with the area.
Fellow director Anthony Pesec, who has recently returned to Canberra, said the plans would also include historical information about the area and the 2003 fires to educate those less familiar with its past.
"The ACT government have already done a really good job with restoring this area, but there's still nowhere to buy an icecream or a cup of coffee. We started talking about our memories of growing up around here and it seemed like time to get this started," Mr Pesec said.
Ms Hunter said the group would be looking to local investors before going further afield, but was confident there would be support for the proposal. ACT chief minister Andrew Barr has already written a letter of support to the group saying the proposal was consistent with the government's objectives to increase tourism, and meetings with numerous government officials had also been well received to date.
"We really want this to be community driven and inclusive, so we're going to be calling for community feedback in the new year as we work on the business plan," she said.
Those wanting to find out more and contribute feedback can email their details to email@example.com.