Hopetoun and nearby Ravensthorpe, 590km southeast of Perth, was brought to its knees when more than 600 jobs were lost in the 2009 mine closure.
But shire president Ian Goldfinch said today marked the start of a “new era” with the official opening of a project to make the stunning Fitzgerald River National Park more accessible.
About 80km of new roads, camping grounds, signs, picnic areas, lookouts, carparks and walk trails were bought with $40 million in joint state and federal government funding.
“We’re well and truly open for business. It’s the start of a new era,” Mr Goldfinch said.
“The publicity of BHP closing down put a big black ring around Hopetoun. It was really a disaster for us. We were in our darkest hour.”
But a visit by Mr Barnett prompted the shire to ask for funding to make tourism, not mining, the centrepiece of the local economy.
“He said, ‘What to you really want?’. We said, ‘Make the park into the jewel of the crown for Ravensthorpe-Hopetoun,” Mr Goldfinch said.
“It took a little while and there was some frustration … but now we have that jewel.”
The Fitzgerald River National Park has more than 2000 species of flowers, phenomenal coastal and inland views, mountains to climb and river gorges to explore.
The nickel mine is operating again after it was bought by Canadian company First Quantum.
The Barnett Government launched a $21 million Parks for People package last year to create more high-quality, low-cost accommodation options for visitors to the state’s national parks.
Parks for People: Readers’ pics
Over the past month, The Sunday Times and PerthNow have been running a Parks for People photo competition.
The final week’s winner was Allan Coupland for his picture at Karijini National Park. The runner-up was Linda McKenna for her shot at Warren National Park.