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Linking central Victoria via the old railway line
The proposed 78km Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail is one step closer, to being linked with the 49km O’Keefe Rail Trail and the Melbourne urban trail network, as reported by the Bendigo Advertiser (26 March 2018 on-line edition).
While nearly 80 per cent of people consulted for the feasibility study were in favour of the rail trail being implemented, of the 37 private landowners of the former railway reserve (or linked to this reserve) interviewed, 27 objected to the trail.
Such objections, as recorded by the independent feasibility study consultants, were largely related to access to those landowner’s properties i.e. of the actual former railway reserve, rather than the concept of creating the rail trail itself. Other individuals in the Pyalong area have indicated their personal concern about the Mitchell Shire being responsible for future maintenance costs associated with the proposed trail.
The Mitchell Shire has indicated that a Trail Working Group will be established, providing the opportunity to take into consideration the concerns of individual landowners and residents, as well as seeking input from government bodies e.g. DELWP and individuals with rail trail expertise.
The Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail is seen as being visionary for the Mitchell Shire Council’s community, business economy and tourism, according to Mayor Rhonda Sanderson. The Shire Councillors voted seven to one to proceed with the trail feasibility study’s final report at its 19 March meeting.
Council agreed it will work with the community, landowners, trail users, and related experts by forming a Trail Working Group, to investigate concerns raised by some landowners of the former railway reserve.
The Council will also investigate external funding opportunities for implementing the trail in stages, as per the study’s recommendations, plus securing access to land and/or preservation of the route on which the trail may be located.
The actual trail route proposed for certain sections, which are privately owned, will depend upon whether private landowners and Council agree on access arrangements, or land sales/ leases, or alternative route options. Such arrangements are usually required for many other successful trail developments in Victoria, interstate, and other countries e.g. New Zealand, USA.
Related article: Bendigo Weekly, 23 March edition p. 11. 2018-03-23_Bendigo Weekly
The Bendigo Weekly has published an article in its 23 February edition “Rail Trail Link To Wallan Feasible” reporting on the Wallan to Heathcote Feasibility Study that is to be considered by the Mitchell Shire Council at its 19th March meeting.
This article included comments by a Pyalong resident and business co-owner, relating to concerns about the study consultant’s processes as well as perceived impacts that a rail trail may have in the Pyalong area.
It is understood that the Mitchell Shire Council will make a decision at its March meeting, whether to accept or otherwise the recommendations in the study’s final report. Should a decision be made to accept the report, it has been indicated that such would not automatically commit the Council and its ratepayers to embark on implementing the report’s recommendations in the future, or to expend ratepayers rate revenue for the report’s proposed staged development of the trail.
Should the study be accepted by Council, this could become the basis for attracting significant external grants to the Shire to create employment of local people and contractors, be the basis of local discussions on how such a project could be implemented with the various parties involved including private landholders of the former railway alignment’s land.
When most rail trails are in the planned stage, there is need to consider many factors including detours or bypasses from the original railway’s alignment, whether such is due to road realignments, private land or land use changes i.e buildings, farming practices etc. The outcomes can be about a ‘win win’ for all involved, perhaps the farmer gains new fences/gates/screening trees, or an all weather joint use ‘internal road’ to access paddocks for stock movements, or the sale of a small parcel of unproductive land to add to the farmer’s superannuation fund, the leasing of land, or an upgraded sealed joint use road/trail. All of these examples listed here are what were negotiated by people involved with the recent extension of the O’Keefe Rail Trail between Axedale and Heathcote.
The local Tavern/pub/General Store plus other small businesses continue to have ‘wins’ too. Local communities, rural school students, small walking groups have access their own recreational rail trail facility to help improve their own health and wellbeing, as well as attracting other walking and cycling trail users who bring economic benefits to the small towns involved. ‘Rail trail’ business could make the difference between a local shop or pub closing or not, with such lost affecting local farmers and residents. Rail trails are for the community including farming families, rail trails help support rural business and employment.
The Wallan to Heathcote feasibility study’s community feedback stage is drawing to a close. The final date for feedback is 5pm Monday 10th April, therefore members of the various communities that are likely to benefit from such a trail, or individuals who would like to raise any points of view, plus general trail users, are all encouraged to complete the feedback form.
This feedback can easily be completed on the Engaging Mitchell web page’s ‘Complete form‘ link.
Further information can also be obtained from http://wp.me/ptMbe-2kM
A proposed Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail has the Victorian State Government, Mitchell Shire, and City of Greater Bendigo co-funding a study to assess the feasibility of a new 65km rail trail, from Wallan to Heathcote for recreational walkers, cyclists, and possibly horse riders.
Such a trail may connect, via a safe off-road trail, the communities of Wallan, Heathcote Junction, Wandong, Kilmore, Pyalong, Tooborac, and Heathcote. Linking with the O’Keefe Rail Trail, such connection may also link with the communities of Knowsley, Axedale, Junortoun and Bendigo.
The study is at the community and landowner consultations phase, with a series of Listening Posts being conducted. The Engaging Mitchell web site has details of these Listening Posts’ dates and more information.
Feedback by the public on the proposal is also being encouraged, either by completing the feedback form at the Listening Posts, sending a completed form via Aust Post, or an on-line survey using the Engaging Mitchell web page’s feedback link. Such feedback will be received until by 5pm on Monday 10 April 2017.
The Mitchell Shire, City of Greater Bendigo and the Victorian State Government have enable a current study to assess the feasibility of a new rail trail from Wallan to Heathcote, for commuting, recreational walkers, cyclists, and possibly horse riders.
The focus for a trail route is a former railway alignment, between Wallan and Heathcote, the connection with O’Keefe Rail Trail (Heathcote – Bendigo), and options to connect this to the Great Victorian Rail Trail as well as the Melbourne metro trail network.
Members of the public are invited to have their say on the trail proposal, the possible route, and to share their related thoughts. up until Monday 20 March 2017.
To provide your feedback, please click this ‘Engaging Mitchell’ link, and complete the general survey or provide an online submission.
The Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail feasibility study formally began on 22 February 2016, with the selected principle consultants RMCG meeting with the study’s Steering Committee.
The major funding for this study has been provided by the current State Government, in conjunction with funding contributions from the Mitchell Shire Council and City of Greater Bendigo Council, plus ‘in kind’ direct community input.
With the selected consultants RMCG engaged, they also have the services of a number of specialist companies to assist. Those being Communityvibe, Spire Consulting Group, Trafficworks P/L, and Biosis.
The Steering Committee’s representation comes from the Mitchell Shire Council, the City of Greater Bendigo Council, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), with community involvement from the Mitchell Bicycle User Group and the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail.
As the study progresses, engagement with landowners and communities will take place to inform, seek an understanding of and take into account the various land ownership and use changes that have occurred since the former railway was recovered. The study is also required to highlight engineering, associated road traffic, heritage and environmental matters that would need to be taken into account when considering this trail proposal.
The study will conduct a full investigation of all related aspects for this proposed trail, plus indentify options that may create a network of linked trails in central and eastern areas of regional Victoria as well as linking with the Melbourne metropolitan trail network. A final report is expected later in 2016.
The Wallan Old Time Market is a true country meeting place, to have a chat, to purchase a variety of items and fresh produce. It is also a perfect place to meet, inform local people of updates as to what was happening with ‘their rail trail’.
It had been over a year since members of the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail and the Mitchell Bicycle User Group last held an information stand at the Wallan Market, so it was time to once again set up at Hadfield Park Wallan. While in 2014 there was positive interest from members of the local and adjoining communities, the enthusiasm was even more evident in May 2015. From increased levels of anticipation, interest, even excitement by some, there were questions of how to become involved and even some suggested opportunities to assist with the endeavourers of our two community groups and the Mitchell Shire Council.
The proposition of a jointly funded local councils and State government feasibility study, a study focussed on a Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail linking with the O’Keefe Rail Trail at Heathcote plus linked to a possible southern trail connection to the whole of the Melbourne trail network, did encourage new members to join each group. Overall, there were many words of warm encouragement and support, on what was a cool yet sunny autumn morning in Wallan.