The Blue Mountains Conservation Society and Wilderness Australia has urged the State Government to reconsider plans for a lookout and adventure hub of the Lost City near Lithgow which they say will destroy the iconic view.
Instead the government should look to the example of Katoomba's Echo Point and Scenic World as a good example, they said.
Wilderness Australia honorary project officer, Keith Muir, said the majesty of the view would be spoiled by the proposed adventure theme park and it would be "a travesty". Planning for the reserve has been "rushed, with visitor management master plan focused on thrill-seeking adventures", he said.
"We're trying to fix this mess... what we're trying to do is definitely get it relocated," Mr Muir said. "They shouldn't wreck their best view, it's Lithgow's greatest asset, it's that wild view. It's why we've suggested this alternative adjacent site at State Mine Heritage Park."
The State Government declared almost 30,000 hectares be created as a State Conservation Area (SCA) last year, doubling the protected area of the Gardens of Stone. The government has said it will bring 200,000 visitors to the area and help Lithgow rebrand itself from a mining town to an adventure capital, with an Indiana Jones type adventure park.
Public comment to the draft Master Plan and Plan of Management for the Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area ended on July 5. Foremost among conservationists concerns is the theme park.
Blue Mountains Conservation Society spokesperson Annette Cam said: "The iconic Lost City lookout precinct should follow the example of the Skyway and Scenic railway at Katoomba, where these facilities are tucked round the corner from the main view from Echo Point".
"Separating quiet enjoyment of the Lost City's iconic wild views from the excitement of adventure tourism at State Mine Gully would create better visitor experiences," Ms Cam, the National Parks Officer for BMCS, said.
Lithgow's main lookout in the new reserve is proposed to be for the view of Lost City. But conservationists believe the theme park should be located closer to Lithgow at State Mine Gully, not currently part of the SCA, but part of the State Mine Heritage Park.
Former Colong Foundation for Wilderness executive director, and project officer for the now renamed group, Wilderness Australia, Keith Muir, said the State Mine Gully has far more potential for a theme park than the Lost City site, is closer to town and it was only a 4km shift south.
The environment groups have campaigned for decades to protect the Gardens of Stone located on the edge of the Blue Mountains.
"The proposals for a zip line ... will be more difficult and expensive to establish and service at Lost City, as well as more environmentally damaging," Mr Muir said.
"Lithgow's proposed main lookout attraction ideally presents the wild views of Lost City, which is a superlative example of internationally significant pagoda geodiversity. It would be a travesty for the majesty of this view to be spoiled by a theme park."
There was also better access via a 2.4km sealed road to State Mine Gully, instead of the 10 kilometres of dirt road between the top and bottom of the adventure hub, they said.
"Everyone will come and go via Clarence and miss Lithgow, It's a collision of errors," Mr Muir said. "I still don't believe it; it wrecks it. The best solution is to move it and come up with an alternative and the museum wants it. Our plan had Lithgow at the gateway of the reserve. It's the same with Zig Zag railway where tourists bypass Lithgow. The State Mine Gully ties the theme park to Lithgow, guaranteeing its tourism future."
Ms Cam said the Lost City pagoda landscape is an important site for biodiversity values, including stands of Wolgan Snow Gum (E. gregsoniana) and Whip-stick Ash (E. multicaulis) that should be protected.
The Gazette contacted several ministers and the Premier for a response but was instead given a statement by a National Parks and Wildlife Service spokesperson which said "the location of key activities and facilities in the new State Conservation Area are being considered in the planning process".
"NPWS will review and consider all submissions and feedback received during the recent public exhibition of the Draft Masterplan and Draft Plan of Management. The suitability of final infrastructure locations will be determined through rigorous environmental and cultural impact assessment. Infrastructure and facilities will be designed to minimise impacts on the environment."
The spokesperson said "the new Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area (SCA) presents an outstanding opportunity to establish a world-class ecotourism destination for Lithgow, while conserving the exceptional natural and cultural heritage values of the area".
"In the long term, the proposed investment in the new SCA and the Lost City experience is expected to attract up to 200,000 visitors to the region per year and generate up to 190 direct and indirect jobs and up to $30 million in economic activity... the State Mine Gully site is not part of the SCA."
Mr Muir said he was concerned by the response, adding "the NPWS are pushing a nature trashing precedent of an adventure tourism theme park at Lost City that won't deliver tourism gains to the Lithgow Community".
He was trying to avoid the lost city being truly lost, he said.
Mr Muir said under the government proposal those tendering for the project would potentially have a one hour trip to transport guests between the zipline start and finish points. And those at the Lost City Lookout "wouldn't want to see buses coming up the road and have cableway obstructing that wild view."
"It's a wonderful story about a town that's in transition. Lithgow needs to broaden its economy and the park could be a huge opportunity but it's the wrong access road. They should use State Mine Gully Road instead of Old Bells Line Road."
Ray Christison, president of The City of Greater Lithgow Mining Museum Inc, said they would like to see the State Mine Heritage Park as part of the SCA and believed "a secondary entrance from Clarence - as proposed by NPWS - will potentially destroy any potential benefit to the City of Lithgow".
"We consider the establishment of the Gardens of Stone SCA as a major opportunity for new partnerships and enhancement of income streams," he said.
"The museum is considering making a space available for development of a café/restaurant and have also discussed the possibility of hosting NPWS activities on our large site. Like much of the Lithgow tourism and hospitality sector we are looking forward to seeing the benefits of the SCA in the form of additional visitation and business revenue.
"The development has been marketed to the community of Lithgow as a potential business and jobs generator. Like others, our organisation understands that this benefit will only accrue if the primary entrance to the SCA is through State Mine Gully and high volume tourist activities are located close to the town."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.