The information below was provided by the Warburton Rail Trail Committee of Management
The decision by the Minister for Environment and Conservation Sheryl Garbutt to lock the public out of Lilydale public parkland has sparked moves from other landholders to grab control of parts of the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail reserve.
“The future of the recreation trail is under threat,” Friends of the Warburton Trail spokesperson, Arthur Francis said. “At least one adjoining land owner has approached the Minister in recent weeks seeking a long term lease over the reserve and several people are seeking to purchase chunks of the reserve.
“The landowner who was forced to relinquish their lease on the trail for the opening of the section from Killara to Launching Place is incensed with the Minister Garbutt’s special treatment of the Sisters of Mercy Property Group.
“He has written to the Minister seeking similar treatment with a long term lease over the 2km of the trail reserve cutting through his property. If he succeeds it will effectively cut the trail in two and set back the trail project by two years. Tourism in the valley would be hard hit.
“All that we have worked so hard for is starting to crumble because the Minister has shown absolutely no commitment or understanding of the importance of this public land to the valley, to all Victorians.”
Mr Francis said the lease application was a protest action by a very angry valley farmer wanting to highlight the discriminatory nature of the decision to stop the trail at Maroondah Highway so Mount Lilydale Mercy College can lease part of the public parkland reserve.
“We can understand and sympathise with landowners in the valley who gave up their leases to allow the trail to go ahead and now feel they have been discriminated against. The Committee of Management was able to open the 38km trail through the Yarra Valley because they successfully negotiated win-win solutions with more than 20 property owners who leased or used part of the reserve.
“Now the clock is turning back and people are knocking on the Committee and Government’s door seeking to lease and buy up sections of the public land.
The Committee of Management at its last meeting rejected two applications to purchase sections of the parkland reserve in Wandin and Lilydale.
“The Minister’s decision to lock the public out of Crown Land and, in particular, Crown Land zoned for public parkland is putting this regional tourist icon under threat,” Mr Francis said.
“Without the Minister’s demonstrated commitment to public access to this public parkland and Crown Land reserve, this project which is so important to Lilydale and the Yarra Valley, will collapse. “