Article text reproduced with permission from The Moyne Gazette (by Anthony Brady 6th Feb 2013).
USE of the Port Fairy to Warrnambool Rail Trail has soared over the summer period, new figures show.
Trail exponents say the increased numbers are proof the rail trail is becoming a major tourist drawcard.
A counting device at the Regent Street entrance to the trail in Port Fairy and the halfway mark at the Koroit railway station show numbers soared in January.
In Port Fairy, counters recorded 6700 users, Koroit was even higher with 8200. These figures are up from 3700 in both towns in December. Rail Trail Committee of Management secretary Ian Bodycoat said the impressive January figures showed the growth in visitors using the trail.
"The word has spread far and wide that the rail trail is open and is a great place to walk or ride," he said.
"We have had feedback from people on the trail that they have planned their holidays down here and the rail trail is one of the things they have on their to-do list and was one of the reasons they chose our part of the world.
"We are also finding there are a lot of groups like Probus and Rotary who are coming from outside the area for a group trip away and the rail trail is being seen by those groups as an ideal activity."
Moyne Shire mayor Jim Doukas, who openly expressed his reservations about the rail trail when it was under construction, said he was pleased to see it being well used.
"There was a lot of money spent on it so we should be confident the public will use it and it looks like they are, which is great," he said.
"These things take time to get going and need to be managed properly and the committee they have in place are obviously doing a good job.
"I think Koroit, in particular, has been advantaged by the rail trail, they were desperate for a place people could safely go for a walk around the town and the rail trail has been perfect for that."
While the rail trail is attracting tourists, Mr Bodycoat said the other positive was that it took a large number of cyclists off the road and onto the safety of the rail trail.
Moyne Shire councillor and Port Fairy Police Sergeant Mick Wolfe agreed the rail trail offered a safe option for cyclists and walkers.
"The benefits are multi-pronged, It is great for health and fitness and it gets people off the roads and it is a social hub," he said.
"It is a great project and it is great to see it coming to fruition."
The rail trail was officially opened in May last year after the idea of establishing the trail was first mooted in 1994.
For more information about the Warrnambool to Port Fairy Rail Trail please see our trail description.