Iconic businesses close as celebrations for new openings begin
THE progress to opening day of two massive infrastructure projects dominated the attention of the Clarence Valley through 2019.
Building on the Harwood and new Grafton bridges was all people could talk about as residents marvelled at the speed of construction at Harwood and were aghast at the apparent dawdling on the build in Grafton.
Yet both projects, which were announced within a month of each other in 2016, were officially opened in December.
The massive scale of the Harwood project, which has been the centrepiece of the Pacific Highway upgrade in the Clarence Valley has captured the imagination of the public.
Sadly they were unable to join in the fun on December 1, when more than 8000 people had booked a place on a walk across the bridge ahead of its official opening.
Unfortunately organisers called off the walk due to worsening fire conditions between Harwood and Woodburn.
Happily there were no such problems a week later when thousands flocked to walk over second Grafton bridge.
Particularly memorable was the turn out of elderly people who were there for the opening of the old Grafton bridge in 1932 and made a special effort to return for the opening of the new river crossing.
Their tales of the day and recollections of the history of the city added a depth of history to what was a spectacular day in the history of the Jacaranda City.
The opening of the Grafton bridge was heralded 11 months earlier when the stretch of road connecting Iolanthe St to the Pacific Highway opened up.
The new connection signalled the beginning of the end for the controversial intersection of Spring and Iolanthe streets with the highway, which created the most notorious traffic hazard in the region.
There were other notable infrastructure developments in the Clarence in 2019.
One that should be close to the hearts of many old Graftonians was the opening in July of the Calrence Valley Country Universities Centre.
Decades of suspicions the region had turned its back on a university for Grafton were ended with the CVCUC opening and enrolment of more than 50 students in its first semester.
Another big occasion was the opening of the new children's park in Jacaranda Park, Grafton, on Christmas Eve.
The park, with its exciting array of playground equipment, is the culmination of the Clarence Valley Council children's playground policy, which has been behind upgrades to parks around the Clarence in recent years.
Not all openings were greeted with the same enthusiasm.
The opening of a new service station on Yamba Rd was treated with disgust by many locals, who thought there was no need for it and questioned safety aspects of people getting in and out on a busy intersection.
An opening that would be popular would be a Hanks Bakery outlet in the shape of a giant pie on the highway. An April Fools Day prank revealed a lot of readers thought this to be a pretty good idea.
• Bay Audio Grafton opened a store in Shoppingworld
• The 53 Island Festival made its debut.
• Dougherty Property made its long awaited name change.
• The Return and Earn depot in Grafton has been a massive success.
• Veteran Grafton clothes retailer Noel Smith opened his own factory outlet store, Out the Back in August..
One of the longest-running sagas in the Clarence during 2019 was the closure of the Aboriginal Legal Service office in the Gurehlgam Corporation building in Grafton.
At the end of 2018 the ALS announced it would close the office and move it to Coffs Harbour to the dismay of most of the three Aboriginal peoples in the Clarence Valley.
It didn't go down well Clarence Valley mayor Jim Simmons, who saw yet another example of a government-funded service leaving his region.
By August the move was complete and as was the opening of an ALS outreach centre in the New School of Arts at South Grafton.
The mayor had similar complaints to make about the revelations the NSW Properties Office had moved from State Office Building in Victoria St to Coffs Harbour in late 2018 without anyone noting its departure.
The almost certain closure of Grafton's little golf course in the middle of the Grafton Race Track has plenty of golfer weeping into their beers.
The announcement the Grafton District Services Club would no long take up the lease on the course when it came up on December 31, means the course would almost certainly close.
There are frantic moves afoot to keep the course open, but unless the golfers come up with something pretty solid and soon, the writing is on the wall for the popular course.
The closure of Charcoal Chicken in Prince St Grafton earlier this year was another closure treated with dismay in the community.
Time strapped parents had made the quick trip for a "Charcoal Chook" with its array of salads and chips for a couple of generations.
There were threats made to close a number of swimming pools in the Clarence Valley during 2019, but only one was carried out.
Ulmarra officially lost its little pool near Bailey Park after battling for years to encourage the council to keep it open.
Glenreagh was also slated to lose its pool, but received a late reprieve.
A furious community reaction to a council announcement it had designs on the South Grafton indoor pool complex has saved it for the time being.
The closure of Mumma Bear's Cafe Patisserie in Prince St, Grafton in May was a shock to its loyal customers.
In less than a year it had built quite a following who took to social media in droves to express their disappointment.