Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail

Linking central Victoria via the old railway line

Bendigo community briefing a success

Fifty-six people turned up for the Bendigo community briefing about the O’Keefe rail trail and beyond on Monday 13 July.

City of Greater Bendigo Crs Rod Campbell and Keith Reynard, both supporters of the project, jointly chaired the meeting. Director City Futures, Stan Liacos, and Manager Recreation, Pat Jess, both spoke. This was followed by a five-member panel which drew together a range of experience and knowledge about trails. Members of the panel included:

  • Professor John Martin
    Centre for Sustainable Regional Communities, La Trobe University
  • Colin Smith
    Senior Project and Commercial Manager, Department of Primary Industries
    – member of original O’Keefe Committee of Management
  • Keith Longridge
    town and recreation planning (various councils)
    – recreation planner during development of Lilydale to Warburton rail trail
  • Greg Jones
    President Mitchell BUG
    – involved in planning for recently funded Goulburn River High Country rail trail
  • Amy Groch
    Manager, Land and Fire, Department of Sustainability and Environment Bendigo
    – responsible for recreation coordination and planning across the north-east region

A detailed summary of the meeting follows.

Council support

Director City Futures, Stan Liacos, said the council is committed to the project with it now being one of the city’s 15 key strategic projects. Council will be seeking a significant portion of the funding from state and federal governments, especially in the period running up to the next state and federal elections.

The Presentation and Assets, Community Well Being, and City Futures divisions are cooperating to produce a “calling card bible” – a document that outlines the project to Heathcote and forms the basis of applications for funding. This should be ready by August or September.

The council has also contacted Mitchell Shire. The Shire’s energies are focussed on the Goulburn River High Country rail trail at the moment. But they do want to kept informed about the project and would be willing to become involved as their current trail project nears its end.

Manager Recreation, Pat Jess, said $60,000 has been allocated to extending the trail into Axedale. (It currently finishes outside the town at the cemetery.) The council has undertaken a preliminary planning analysis of the route between Heathcote and Axedale.

Community involvement

A panel of five guests brought a range of experience and expertise to the briefing.

Professor John Martin (Facilitator)
Centre for Sustainable Regional Communities, La Trobe University

  • Developing the rail trail now is timely. It’s an economic, social and health vehicle.

Colin Smith
Senior Project and Commercial Manager, Department of Primary Industries
Colin represented the then Department of Natural Resources and Environment on the original O’Keefe Rail Trails committee of management. The focus then was on conservation, but he says tourism is now a good focus.

  • Make sure it’s usable by walkers, cyclists and horse riders, so recommend it’s not sealed except perhaps through towns.
  • Create linkages to other public land adjoining the trail to enhance the trail experience, and create tracks to get onto the trail.
  • Take care with revegetation – Hamilton they didn’t want to create a fire wick into the town.

Keith Longridge
Town and recreation planning (various councils)
Keith was involved with development of Lilydale to Warburton trail.

  • The trail took 15 years from planning to completion. As Recreation Services Officer in Lilydale in 1990 came across a management plan for the proposed Lilydale-Warburton trail dated 1986 and signed off by the Minister for Conservation and Lands. Recreation Services got it onto the council agenda at both Upper Yarra and Lilydale councils.
  • Careful planning at the start pays huge dividends.
  • Serendipitous events played a part. Melways phone council planning departments to see if any updates on subdivisions need to be included in next edition. Keith mentioned the proposed trail and it appeared in the next edition. It generated huge amount of interest and phone calls, which Keith logged to demonstrate a measure of “latent demand”.
  • Being able to “show” the whole concept is valuable in gaining support – sometimes literally. The Mountains to Bay trail passed through twelve councils. They organised a helicopter to take representatives of each council up together to show them the whole route, which got the councils enthused and cooperating. It was completed in three stages.

Greg Jones
President Mitchell BUG
The Mitchell BUG has been involved in planning for the recently funded 134 km Goulburn River High Country rail trail. They’ve learned how to present plans so people respond well.

  • Started five or six years ago lobbying for a short trail from Heathcote Junction to Kilmore. They gained support of Tramways Museum and council, but project delayed now with focus on GRHC trail.
  • Murrundindi Shire public consultations sat two groups together: rail trail users and supporters and land holders. The people at each table ended up seeing each other’s point of view with positive outcome from the meeting.
  • The federal funding for the trail saved them a lot of letter writing.

Amy Groch
Manager, Land and Fire, Department of Sustainability and Environment Bendigo
Amy is reponsible for recreation coordination and planning across the north-east region. DSE is very supportive of this kind of project.

  • Various similar projects provide opportunity for visitors to stay in an area longer and get into townships.
  • The Otways rail trail project is supporting towns in transition from timber to tourism focus.
  • Feasibility study currently underway re the goldfields to Murray trail (Bendigo to Echuca).
  • The Bendigo forest management plan seeks community engagement.

Some of the questions from the floor

How do you handle land owners who don’t want the trail developed?

  • Council has looked at the route to Heathcote. There are not that many places where this will be an issue. But it needs to be handled sensitively. (Stan Liacos)
  • Important to get local people involved. In Corangamite Shire, the local bushwalking club took up cause of trail development. They knew the land holders and were the best ambassadors. Also important to have good people on committee. Best one on Warburton trail was a journalist. (Keith Longridge)
  • GRHC trail bussed farmers to show them Bright rail trail and that it does work there without the vandalism they were concerned about. Property owners now have gates onto the trail and newer houses are being built to face it.(Greg Jones)
  • Great Britain has well established agreements with private land holders. There are fantastic precedents in Europe. (Chris McCormack, Parks Vic)

Can you expand on using public land to better advantage?

  • You might include loops to look at particular vegetation off the trail, like the reserve in Bennetts Lane, railway stations and site of historic significance. (Colin Smith)
  • You need to provide a range of cultural, historical and environmental opportunities as different visitors are interested in different things. (Keith Longridge)
  • There is opportunity to promote a range of experiences around the trail. Pull together maps and promotion into one package. (Audience member)

What sort of maintenance budget is required?

  • Mitchell Shire is allowing $45-50K per year for Goulburn River High Country Rail Trail, which is fairly low considering the economic benefits it will bring. (Greg Jones)

Be careful not to alienate other towns by being Bendigo-centric. (Audience member)

Please don’t pave the trail (horse owner).

2 responses to “Bendigo community briefing a success

  1. Keith Longridge Jul 27, 2009 at 4:46 am

    Great Works!
    Minor correction:
    ‘Mountains to Bay’ trail passed through 12 local government areas, but trail developed in three major sections.



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