WE ARRIVED in Grantville in 2004 from the middle class suburb of Ivanhoe, both of us from a teaching background, to run French View Caravan Park.
Neither of us had ever set foot in a caravan, let alone a caravan park, but blind ignorance often spurs the naive into taking risks and a leap into the unknown, for better or for worse.
We bought in Grantville because we believed it would be a good long-term real estate investment. It was a rapidly expanding growth corridor, the agents all said. So we took a financial gamble and, instead of buying a small investment property, bought an-over priced caravan park. With no prior business experience or knowledge, we cheerfully embarked upon a steep learning curve.
The general morale of the both the caravan park and the town was pretty forlorn and despondent. The residents in our park were suspicious of each other and unhappy. Both the plumbing and electrical infrastructure was old and always breaking down, making for emergency callouts at all hours.
When we turned up to our first Grantville Business Association meeting, we learned that it was about to fold due to lack of interest and dwindling membership numbers.
“What you need,” I said with the foresight of a big city slicker, “is a big article in the Sentinel-Times.”
“Yes,” they all agreed, “but that’s not going to happen because nobody’s interested in Grantville.”
They weren’t entirely wrong. Grantville was just a set of traffic lights on the way to the Island and Inverloch. The only reason anyone stopped was to shop at the bakery. But as there were no centrally located public toilets, most people just kept going.
After being unanimously voted in as the new president, I took on the challenge of writing an article for the Sentinel-Times. “Thousands of tourists bypassing Grantville,” I admonished in my authoritative presidential voice. It was a good-sized article and the Sentinel-Times took up the matter, with the council adding to the debate.
The Grantville Transaction Center had just been completed and we attended the opening ceremony which was presided over by then councillor John Hulley. The new building was a great asset to the town but there was no provision for further expansion, hence Grantville still has no community centre and lacks a community hub.
There was no memorial park either and the transaction centre stood in a paddock. The new strip shops weren’t built. There was no bank, no doctor, no ambulance and no chemist. The tourism sign on Bass Highway advertised all the attractions on Phillip Island as if Grantville had nothing to offer.
One of the Grantville & District Business and Tourism Association’s first projects was to get township banners for the highway. The Phillip Island tourist map was pulled down and we convinced the council that we needed our own tourist map. Our mission was to give people a reason to stop in Grantville. But in order for that to happen we needed public toilets in a central location.
As the business and tourism association became more cohesive and pro-active the residents and ratepayers realised that they needed their own representative body and hence the Grantville & District Ratepayers and Residents Association was formed.
In 2005 Veronica Dowman became councillor and together we worked towards getting things done in Grantville. In that year I wrote a funding submission on behalf of the Residents and Ratepayers Association for community building initiatives. We secured $30,000 towards employing a facilitator to connect the Waterline communities.
Community opportunity workshops were subsequently held in Grantville and Corinella and the Waterline townships evaluated their strengths and identified what they needed in their townships, leading to the creation of a community plan for each township.
The next event of interest was the formation of the Grantville Memorial Park committee of management, which raised funds from the community, and then securing both government and council funding. A landscape architect was engaged and landscape plans were drawn up to turn a paddock into a memorial park.
Though the naysayers may still say “Nothing ever happens in Grantville”, in the 12 years we lived and worked there we saw a great deal of growth and change.
Firstly we saw the chicken shop built and the expansion of the bottle shop, then the new strip shops were built and provided a space for the Bendigo Bank to establish itself after community members pledged the requisite number of shares.
The dedicated Grantville Community Emergency Response Team volunteers demonstrated to the then minister for health that the area definitely needed an ambulance. Once the funding was secured and the ambulance station was built, we got a nurse practitioner, followed by a doctor, a chemist and an op shop.
From a town of hopeful real estate agents waiting for the land boom, Grantville has become the central business township servicing the waterline and hinterland communities.
So to those who say that nothing ever happens in Grantville because the supermarket has yet to arrive, I say, “Where have you been living in the past 12 years – under the proverbial log?”
A supermarket will be built once there is enough critical mass of population to make it a viable and profitable enterprise. No developer in their right mind would build a business of that magnitude just because the locals want it or need it. Time and subsequent growth will eventually make it a viable business proposition and Grantville will get what it has always wanted.