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The Victorian Premier Steve Bracks opened the Colac to Gellibrand stage of the Old Beechy Rail Trail on Tuesday 16th July 2005. Railtrails Australia congratulates the committee on their years of hard work.

Unfortunately it wasn't a very public opening due to the very short notice provided to the committee. They are hoping to have a public opening around October when the Gellibrand Bridge is completed.

A brochure for the trail is expected shortly. An updated description and map of the trail is available.

The following is a press release.

FROM THE OFFICE OF THE PREMIER, MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

DATE: Tuesday, July 26, 2005

OTWAYS RAIL TRAIL LEADS TO TOURISM FUTURE

Victorian Premier Steve Bracks today opened the Colac to Gellibrand stage of the Old Beechy Rail Trail, a $1 million cycling and walking project that will help build a sustainable tourism future for the Otways region.

Mr Bracks and Environment Minister John Thwaites said the Rail Trail is one of 19 tourism projects being rolled out under the New Future for the Otways Tourism Initiative and will allow bike riders and walkers to travel uninterrupted from Colac Railway Station to Beech Forest.

"The Rail Trail follows much of the course of the original Colac to Beech Forest narrow-gauge rail line, taking in some of Victoria's most beautiful and diverse rainforest along the way," Mr Bracks said.

"We have committed over $1 million to making this Rail Trail a reality. It's another significant part of our $7 million commitment to tourism in the Otways, which is one of Victoria's largest-ever public land tourism investments."

Mr Thwaites said that combined with the funding already spent on buying back sawlog licences in the Otways, the government's $7 million investment in Otways tourism will support the transition to a nature-based tourism future.

"The New Future for the Otways Tourism Initiative is all about identifying the tourism opportunities with most potential and providing the funding and expertise to bring them to a world-class standard," Mr Thwaites said.

The Colac Otway Shire Council is managing the project, which is sponsored by the Department of Sustainability and Environment, and draws on the expertise of a committee made up of local people who first suggested the project back in 1998. A pedestrian bridge over the Gellibrand river at Gellibrand will be ready in October. DSE has provided $685,000 towards the project and Regional Development Victoria $350,000.

The success of the project has also been due to the support of several private landholders who own sections of land containing parts of the original rail line.

The line was first opened in 1902, running south from Colac, through Barongarook and Gellibrand to Beech Forest. In 1911, the line was extended through Lavers Hill to finish at Crowes – a total distance of 72 kilometres.

Today the Rail Trail covers 45.9 km, with all but 13km of that distance being on or adjacent to the original route. The section between Colac and Gellibrand covers 26 kilometres.