The drizzle on Saturday 15th February was not at all summer-like and, while welcome by many, was not ideal for a rail trail opening. Nevertheless, it didn’t dampen the mood as Wurundjeri Elder Tony Garvey welcomed everyone to the long-awaited official opening of Stage 1a of the Yarra Valley Trail.
Stage 1a is 7.5km from Lilydale to Yering.
Federal government MP Tony Smith noted the support of all three levels of government in funding this rail trail, a total of $8.5m.
Rail Trails Australia vice-president Steven Kaye described the long campaign of more than 12 years to get to this day, which he was instrumental in leading, and the many other supporters involved on the journey. He emphasised how gaining the support of all Yarra Ranges Shire councillors was needed to bring what initially was a very controversial idea to reality.
The support of the council was evident with the mayor and at least four other councillors present. The councillors in turn thanked the Yarra Ranges Shire staff who have delivered a high standard rail trail in a very short time and are very pleased with the number of walkers and riders already using it.
Following the opening, staff led a group of riders out on a tour of features of the trail on e-bikes provided by Yarra Valley Cycles.
Shire staff are well into planning of the more challenging 4.5km Stage 1b from Yering to Yarra Glen (total of 12km) and construction should commence later this year. Stage 1b required construction of eight major bridges and a 780m long boardwalk across the Yarra River flood plains. The boardwalk will be beside the former long wooden railway viaduct which burnt down in the 2009 Black Saturday bushfire.