Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail

Linking central Victoria via the old railway line

A Big Challenge happening on the O’Keefe Rail Trail

With the O’Keefe Challenge events to be held on the 29th Apr and 1st May, training efforts are gaining pace as marathon runners focus on the O’Keefe Rail Trail for results.

To assist with this event’s planning, the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail members have been identifying trail sections in need of maintenance, such as trail surface repairs as well as bridge decking. Working closely with the City of Greater Bendigo council, this cooperation has recently seen council’s contractors undertake upgrading works along the older Bendigo-Axedale section plus a section within the Heathcote urban area.

O’Keefe Rail Trail maintenance works in progress. Photo: Garry Long

The O’Keefe Challenge events will not only showcase this popular rail trail to entrants and visitors, the event’s generated funds will be directed to the Heathcote Dementia Alliance for its efforts in establishing the proposed Heathcote Dementia Village.

Whether a serious marathon runner, a 5 km run or walk participant or a cyclist attracted by the excitement of the ‘Light the Trail’ night ride event, all participants will appreciate having community volunteers manning the Aid Stations and as road marshals. The volunteers will be there to ensure the entrant’s safety, provide support, plus possibly helping them to achieve their personal goals.

Additional volunteers are still required for the Sunday 1st May events, so for spending just a couple of hours of your time will make a whole lot of difference for conducting the events. Contact Volunteer Coordinator Judy on hello@theokeefe.com.au or 0400390381, with your offer to be available.

Event registrations are still open, and can be made on-line at https://www.theokeefe.com.au

Community Efforts Work

On a sunny Autumn Sunday, community members armed with hoes, rakes and secateurs came together intending to further improve the section of a former railway reserve near Hidden Valley and Wallan. The planned 10th April Sunday working bee, the third one held, was well attended by members of Wallan Environmental Group, Mitchell Bicycle User Group and Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail, all working hard having one goal in mind.  

Friends members Colin Scott and Les Lewis tackle blackberry growth in one of the trail’s significant cuttings. Photo: Garry Long

Various woody weeds, including large blackberry infestations, were in the sights of those involved as they further cleared sections of this former railway line’s reserve. The immediate goal is to have this section as an enjoyable walking and cycling pathway, through an amazing natural bushland reserve. Although much more work is still needed, the pathway is now usable by local residents. The bigger goal is to incorporate this pathway into an off road trail linking Wallan to Kilmore. Furthermore, parts of that route (if not all) will ultimately be included in the Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail.

With Mitchell Shire council having already approved the rail trail feasibility study’s final positive report, discussions are continuing with the council in regards to planning aspects of the project (and hopefully a budget allocation) to further progress the development of the Wallan to Kilmore link.

Exploring a Hidden Community Treasure

For some it was a first, yet for others who had worked hard to make a section of the proposed Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail accessible for cycling and walking, it was a ‘Show and Tell Day’!

Joining local members of the Mitchell Bicycle User Group, members of the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail traveled to the Wallan Railway Station for their group’s monthly cycling activity. Here they were joined by Richard Welch (Liberal Party candidate for McEwen), seeking local news about a rail trail’s development. Leaving the station’s carpark, the group of cyclist’s first stop was for coffee in Wallan followed by riding to the Hidden Valley entry point into the former Wandong, Heathcote, Sandhurst Railway (closed in 1968) reserve.

Riders cycling along the former railway embankment. Photo: Garry Long

Following two community working bees, to both clear a path along this overgrown 1.2km section of former railway reserve as well as deal with significant numbers of woody and noxious weeds, these volunteer efforts had now made access to this section of the former railway possible.

Once for made for steam trains, now bike riders travel along the embankment. Video: Garry Long

Located at the top of the Great Dividing Range, this section of the reserve has been hidden away for more than 53 years since the railway was closed. The reserve now has significant amounts of remnant vegetation and native trees that once covered most of the surrounding landscape, until the late 19th century. With increasing numbers of community members becoming involved in creating this local off-road recreation facility in an amazing natural environment, the riders were overjoyed to explore this area as a result of considerable volunteer efforts.

Cyclists pass by the former Leslie Railway Station’s platform area. Photo: Garry Long

With the next working bee planned for Sunday 10th April, to further improve the pathway and work on weed eradication, this activity is seen as another small step towards creating the Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail for the benefit of local communities and businesses.

Counters Count Commuter Cyclists

Joining the thousands of volunteer counters across the country, Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail members Rob and Nola Jarvis gave an extra commitment for their involvement in Australia’s largest manual bike count ‘Super Tuesday 2022’ held in March. Bicycle Network conducts Super Tuesday to record volumes, gender, and movement flow of people commuting on bikes, where the Friends group regularly assists with this event.

Yet leading up to this activity, Rob underwent planned surgery to both his knees, so it was uncertain if Rob could still participate being unable to cycle or drive and his walking mobility was relying of the use of crutches. As both are keen cyclists and community minded volunteers, the couple decided that they would both do the count at Rob’s one nominated count site in Strathdale, with Nola driving Rob to the site.

Rob was well equipped for the 2 hour count! Photo: Nola Jarvis

While most Super Tuesday counters stood at their particular site between 7am – 9am, Rob wasn’t able to be a ‘normal’ counter this year. Needing to keep his knees and legs elevated, it was a case of sitting back in a reclining chair for Rob!

As volunteer counters and cyclists, the group members were proud to have collected important data for Bicycle Network and the City of Greater Bendigo council, assisting to improve walking and cycling infrastructure in the Greater Bendigo urban area.

Both Rob and Nola enjoy cycling for exercise and commuting, sharing social time with cycling friends over a coffee, plus one of their favourite rides is to enjoy the O’Keefe Rail Trail. Not only cycling within Victoria, they have both been involved with the Friends group’s trip to New Zealand, where members cycled some of the South Islands trails such as the Central Otago Rail Trail.

This is your Chance to have your Say!

The City of Greater Bendigo is seeking community input into the development of a new Greater Bendigo Road Safety Strategy and Action Plan 2022-2027. One of the identified priorities is focusing on providing a safer environment through a shared responsibility for the safety of all road users – cyclists, pedestrians, motorcyclists & drivers.

The council wants to know what the community thinks about providing better safety for drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users across Greater Bendigo and how it can be improved. This could include your views on safer shared paths like the O’Keefe Rail Trail and other urban trails, especially where they intersect with streets and highways. 

Its your chance to participate, to highlight hazardous situations or the lack of infrastructure and to voice your concerns for the interests of cyclists, road safety and infrastructure. Don’t put it off, have your say NOW and complete the community survey via this link (www.letstalkgreaterbendigo.com.au/road-safety-strategy-action-plan) by March 28th.

Want to know more or have your say directly to council staff and contracted consultants O’Brien Traffic, then you can attend one of the Listening Posts taking place on Friday March 18 at one of the following:

1. Heathcote IGA Supermarket from 9am to 10am, 2. Elmore IGA from 11am and 12pm, 3. Hargreaves Mall from 1.00pm  to 3.00pm and 4. Lansell Square Shopping Centre from 4pm to 5pm.

Coastal Trails and Friends

With the opportunity for a cycling ‘escape’, some members of the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail headed off to enjoy trails at the Victorian coast. With a 4-day adventure planned, based at Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula, it was a great opportunity for members to experience different trails, take time out for a coffee or two, as well as enjoy some social time together.

When is coffee? Point Lonsdale! Photo: Judy McLaren

The first ride day had riders exploring parts of the coast line at Queenscliff, then it was sharing a coastal trail to Point Lonsdale for a coffee break. Thinking about lunch, next was the Bellarine Rail Trail to find out what made this such a popular rail trail. Intermittent coastal rain showers had jackets on and off, yet that caused little break in the chatter amongst the riders. Lunch and laughs were had at Café Zoo in Drysdale, followed by a cycling return along the rail trail back to Queenscliff.

Interpreting information at the Queenscliff Railway Station. Photo: Garry Long

Ride day two had the group catching the 9am Sorrento Queenscliff ferry service, where at Sorrento two additional riders joined the group to ride in the Point Nepean National Park. With a hot sun shining, exploring the former restricted military area with its aging defence infrastructures plus the historic Quarantine Station had all immersed in centuries of history as well as the natural environment. Too soon it was time to ride back through Portsea to catch an afternoon ferry to finish the day in Queenscliff, yet the night was still awaiting!

Boarding the Sorrento Queenscliff ferry. Photo: Garry Long

With the early sun already heating the last riding day’s morning, came preparations for experiencing what the new Bellarine Coastal Trail had to offer. With this continuous trail highlighting the coastline between Pt Richards, Portarlington, Indented Head and St Leonards, the ride began. The trail had riders checking out various points of interest, in between enjoying coffee and cake in St Leonards and lunch in Portarlington. With bikes packed, it was finally time to say farewells and reflect upon what was a fantastic ‘expedition’ with friends.

Murchison Rushworth Rail Trail Proceeds Westwards

While Murchison Rushworth Rail Trail had the Greater Shepparton City Council and the State Government funding this trail’s initial construction project, resulting in the official opening of a trail section between Murchison and Channel Inlet Rd (council boundary with Campaspe Shire) on 27 Feb 2015, there was much more potential for this short section of rail trail.

For the community of Rushworth, who had saved much of the former railway’s infrastructure within the town’s area, they really needed this rail trail to be connected with their town and support its businesses.

With the opportunity of a Federal Government’s ‘Local Roads and Community Infrastructure’ grant, the Campaspe Shire Council on 15 December 2021 unanimously approved to fund the extension of the Murchison to Rushworth Rail Trail by matching the $1.5M grant being provided by Federal Government. A media release from Federal Member for Nicholls, Damian Drum’s office dated 15 Feb 2022, confirmed the allocated grant.

This document was posted on Facebook site Waranga Rail Trail https://www.facebook.com/groups/235144927787849/?ref=share

What a great outcome for the local community, especially those members who have been behind efforts to have this project funded for many years! The project’s current target date for completion is mid 2023. And with a Campaspe Shire’s published plan to connect Rushworth via forest tracks to the O’Keefe Rail Trail at Heathcote, such presents huge potential for an amazing connected trail network.

The close by Girgarre Stanhope Rail Trail (part of the same former railway branch line) is currently being extended so as to connect these two communities, which has those communities keen to have the Murchison to Rushworth Rail Trail extended to Stanhope (and so Girgarre). And just maybe, an extension of this Murchison Rushworth Rail Trail further westwards to Colbinabbin may follow on in the future, where that town’s new silo art is attracting high numbers of visitors that support this small community’s local pub and general store.

See Rail Trails Australia’s Murchison Rushworth Rail Trail ‘News’ post for additional information.

Colbinabbin Silo Art. Photo: Garry Long

A Social Cycle with Friends

Regular activities are planned for members of the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail, for both social connections as well as some exercise. In 2022, a regular ‘last Wednesday of the month’ social rides have been planned, and for this February activity it involved eight riders. The planned route was to utilise a section of the off-road Bendigo Creek Trail, a trail that allows for casual and safe cycling and walking.

The Friends ride group stops off at the O’Keefe Rail Trail link with the Bendigo Creek Trail. Photo: Judy McLaren

The ride began at Lake Werroona, with the group headed off onto the Bendigo Creek Trail and were soon checking out the nearby O’Keefe Rail Trail’s intersection with the creek trail. Cycling northwards along the creek trail, the group then stopped at the White Hills Botanical Gardens and the Gardens of the Future, which was a delightful experience to see the plant growth that has occurred since the upgrading of this passive recreation area.

Departing the gardens, the group continued along the creek trail to the Bendigo Pottery, for the all important mid-ride break for coffee and cake. Following a quick view of parts of this historic prescient, it was then back along the creek trail to conclude the enjoyable day at Lake Werroona.

Help Castlemaine to Marybourgh Rail Trail make history

The Castlemaine to Marbourgh Rail Trail (CMRT) committee is encouraging local communities and supporters of rail trails to donate and make history, in just four short weeks.

What’s at stake is a rare and exciting opportunity to attract up to $100,000 in Victorian Government tourism funding to get this 55km trail started.

To achieve that, the committee first needs to raise $12,000, with every one dollar donated by the community in February 2022 will help the group attract up to $4 in State Government funds. 

That means a single donation as small as $20 could attract up to $80 from Spring Street,” Des Boucher, CMRT Treasurer and fundraising lead, explained. “And if fewer than 25 generous people or local organisations each pledged $500 we could attract up to another $48,000 in government funding,” Des said. 

CMRT plans to hit its four-week, $12,000 fundraising target via two side-by-side campaigns:

1. Foundation Donors for donations of $500+ to find out more download an information brochure here

2. Online Donors for donations of $20+ from the wider community click here to donate

Both kind of donations will receive public recognition. More information can be found via this link.

Bikes on Buses Benefits O’Keefe Trail

The O’Keefe Rail Trail cyclists will soon be able to include the Bendigo-Heathcote PTV bus as an option to catch a bus and bring their bicycles with them, thanks to the State Government’s Bikes on Buses initiative and lobbying by Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail community group. 

Bike racks will be installed on buses for the Bendigo to Heathcote route, all routes in Bendigo, and the six local routes in Castlemaine.

A maximum of two bikes will be able to be safely secured on the rack at the front of the bus, while bus drivers on the routes will complete training to assist the passengers in bringing their two-wheel bikes on board. 

The soon to be installed feature will provide cyclists with additional transport options and offer more accessible connections to popular local recreational trails, including the O’Keefe Rail Trail, Goldfields Track, Bendigo Creek Trail, and the Castlemaine-Maldon Rail Trail,.

In 2016, the Department of Transport first trialed bike racks on two bus routes in Melbourne and two regional locations that included the route 70 service from Bendigo Station to Strathfieldsaye. At the conclusion of the trail, the approved staged roll out program included all the urban Bendigo routes yet not the Bendigo-Heathcote route. The Friends group approached Bendigo East member Jacinta Allan, seeking to have the Heathcote PTV bus service included in the program at the same time as Bendigo. Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll subsequently approved this request.  

Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards, State transport minster Ben Carroll (at centre), and Bus Association of Victoria executive director Chris Lowe and one of the State’s new bus bike racks installed on a Castlemaine Whitmore’s bus. Photo: Eve Lamb (Castlemaine Mail)

Minister for Public Transport Ben Carroll said: “We’re extending the Bikes on Buses initiative to make public transport more accessible for more cyclists in the Bendigo and Castlemaine region.”

“Whether it’s riding to work or exploring one of the region’s bike trails, Bikes on Buses will better connect cyclists to their destination.”

The Member for Bendigo West, Maree Edwards, said: “Bikes on Buses will give cyclists more options when choosing a route to reach their destination – all while delivering convenient access to the Castlemaine-Maldon Rail Trail, The Goldfields Track, O’Keefe Rail Trail and Bendigo Creek Trail.

The bike racks are expected to be installed on those buses, for the indicated routes, from early 2022. A video is available to assist how best to use this new service, via this link.