West Australians are being urged to look to regional pioneers in an effort to revive the tourism industry after it was dealt a devastating blow by the COVID-19 pandemic. A group of innovators from the Matilda Bay Rotary Club have funded and designed a pioneer adventure game to be played across the Wheatbelt and Great Southern regions from York to Albany. Called the Pioneer Challenge, it is a pioneer heritage hunt, with the aim of discovering some of WA’s early settlers. The game is a hybrid of a clue-finding treasure hunt and a car rally that encourages people to explore the State’s regional towns affected by COVID-19. The competition will also raise money to expand the Memorial Rose Garden at King Edward Memorial Hospital, where the ashes of more than 38,000 stillborn babies are buried. The inaugural challenge began yesterday and runs until June 30 next year. People can enter the challenge as an individual, a family or in a team, choosing a portion of Route 120 — known as Great Southern Highway — or all of it from York to Albany. Once registered, players will be nominated three surprise pioneer towns along a trip of their choice. Within those towns, they will need to find three given pioneer graves at local cemeteries and historical clues within the town. The game is played on participants’ phones and involves uploading photos of the graves and towns, plus solving puzzles on the Pioneer Challenge website. Game founder Chris Oakeley said the objective of the game was to get people to visit and learn about regional WA. “In only a few short months, WA tourism has gone from enjoying record international and interstate visitor numbers to a complete industry shutdown,” he said. “Pioneer Challenge is designed to be fun for family and friends of all age groups. “It is a fun way of ensuring that regional towns and businesses can get back on their feet and be operational as soon as possible.” Mr Oakeley said the idea came to him when he was travelling Route 120 with a retired stationmaster. “We were looking at the railway line and the old railway stations and as we went down, we were astonished and horrified to see the number of shops that were closed and the state of the railway stations,” he said. “I thought surely there must be something we can do to attract people down here and boost tourism, so we thought maybe the old pioneers who built this place can help us get the tourism back into the area again.” The 12-month game period was chosen to allow people to take their time completing the challenge. Prizes will be drawn at the end of each month, with a grand prize of $2500 and a week-long stay at a Denmark resort for a family of six announced at the end of the year. “We think everybody should know more about our pioneers because they helped build this State and they were such an important part in the growth of the country,” he said. One example of a pioneer is Narrogin’s Hugh Marsh, who was in the town from 1903 and built the Town Hall and War Memorial. Mr Marsh was a foundation Town councillor, a keen rifle club member and an active worker for the Narrogin Agricultural Show. Edgar Sydney Hall was in Narrogin from 1905, when he established the Narrogin Observer. He served as a councillor, and as mayor during the Depression, and was the original secretary of the Narrogin Co-operative Butter Company. Shire of Narrogin chief executive Dale Stewart said he was excited about the prospects of the Pioneer Challenge. “There is a resurgence in popularity of geo-clue finding games and this challenge has an added advantage in that participants learn something about our local history and pioneers along the way,” he said.