Minister Puts Valley Tourist Icon Under Threat

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. “

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Save the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail

What is happening

The Committee of Management and Friends of this unique recreation trail appeal for your support to save this trail.

The Minister for Environment and Conservation Sherryl Garbutt is threatening this recreation trail with her decision to halt development at Maroondah Highway to allow a school to lease a 500m section of the reserve in Lilydale for yard purposes.

As a result one farmer this month lodged an application to close 2km of the trail through their property claiming they are entitled to be treated in the same manner as the Sisters of Mercy Property Group. Last week the Minister’s office suggested the sale of the 101 year old railway reserve to the school as part of a landswap deal which would send trail users along a drainage easement beside paling fences for 300m – a poor compromise compared to the magnificent views and gentle gradient of the old railway.

The land in question is zoned public parkland recreation under the Shire of Yarra Ranges Planning Scheme – a zoning achieved after extensive community consultation.

Department of Natural Resources and Environment consultants concluded the school’s security concerns and access needs can be resolved with appropriate security fencing, crossings and screen plantings.

Yarra Ranges Shire has set aside $150,000 towards a pedestrian bridge over Maroondah Highway and is supporting the Committee but they need to hear from the users.

The school principal, Bernard Dobson claims the trail represented safety risks to students exposing them to drug dealers and pornography pushers. He says students will be disrupted in their classrooms. The nearest classroom is some 100-150m above the trail up a very steep hill.

See the site for yourself at Melway reference is Map 38 G 2. You will note the topography of the site which isolates the former railway line from the classrooms, the historic bridge and two crossings and the hot house and small horticultural area – the only use being made of this public land today.

The committee is committed to working with the school to resolve security and access issues.

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Blue Mountains Railtrail

While railtrails are generally developed along abandoned railway corridors, the term “railtrail” can also describe trails built beside operating railways within the railway easement. Trails have been built beside railway lines in several states such as those along sections of the Belgrave and Glen Waverly lines in Melbourne.

A group is promoting the development of a trail from Mt Victoria to Katoomba. State Rail is well disposed to the concept, but the local council has not receptive.

They hope that an Upper Mountains cycle railtrail will be part of a transmountian trail linking to the proposed Tarana-Oberon railtrail. Additionally CAMWEST would like to link Sydney to Glenbrook which then links to Wentworth Falls via the Oaks and Andersons Fire Trails.

More information: Upper – Mid Mountains Cycle Rail Trail Web Site.

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Rally calls on Gov’t, School to “bridge the gap”

The information below was provided by Complete Our Rail Trail (CORT).

“Bridge the Gap” was the resounding message protesters delivered to the Minister for Conservation & Environment Sherryl Garbutt and the Mount Lilydale College.

The rally was attended by more than 300 people protesting Ms Garbutt’s decision to halt development of the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail at Maroondah Highway. The government has endorsed the land zoning for public open space – parkland recreation.

“Bridge the Gap” was the resounding message protesters delivered to the Minister for Conservation & Environment Sherryl Garbutt and the Mount Lilydale College.

The rally was attended by more than 300 people protesting Ms Garbutt’s decision to halt development of the Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail at Maroondah Highway. The government has endorsed the land zoning for public open space – parkland recreation.

“The rally overwhelming called on the school to “bridge the gap” in the community and work together for a resolution. There was a resounding demand for the government to support the council’s bid to build the bridge over Maroondah Highway bridging the gap between the popular recreation trail and Lilydale Station,” Mr Francis said.

The protesters streamed up Maroondah Highway from Lilydale Station to Queen Rd under Police escort on Sunday morning to highlight the dangers recreational tourists faced coming to the valley without the completion of the trail’s last 2km from Lilydale Station to Maroondah Highway.

Yarra Ranges Council has set aside $150,000 towards the pedestrian and cycling bridge across Maroondah Highway at the rail trail.

Bicycle Victoria’s Richard Smithers told the rally the rail trail was generating significant economic benefits to the Yarra Valley townships along its current 38km length and the final link to Lilydale Station offered huge potential for the station precinct to become a tourist hub with cafes and shops serving the increasing numbers of cyclists and walkers wanting to use the MET system to walk or cycle through the valley.

Mr Francis called on Ms Garbutt to urgently convene a meeting of the school principal and a representative of the Committee of Management to start working towards a workable solution.

“The fears held by the school principal can be addressed if the parties get together and talk about their needs and search together for solutions,” Mr Francis said.

“We believe there is a win-win solution there and it would be extremely sad if the government perpetuated this rift in the community by failing to broker a solution.”

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NSW Government Agencies briefed on Railtrails

On Monday 13 November Mark Plummer, founder of Railtrails Australia briefed representatives from several New South Wales State Government Agencies on railtrails. The briefing was organized by the Strategic Projects Division of the Premiers Department and was held in the offices of the NSW Premier’s Department. There was a presentation and slide show by Mark Plummer followed by a wide ranging discussion about Railtrail Development in NSW. The meeting was very positive and it is to be hoped that there will now be accelerated development of railtrails in NSW.

At present the proposed Torana to Oberon railtrail looks like being the first official railtrail to be developed. There are some other unofficial railtrails such as sections of the Wolgan Valley Railway to Newnes in the Blue Mountains. But New South Wales still has a long way to go to catch up with the level of railtrail developments in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Teritory.

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Warburton Trail: No Connection to Lilydale

The 38 km Warburton Trail is one of Victoria’s best developed and most popular railtrails. At the Lilydale end it currently starts at the top of a steep embankment on the Maroondah Highway. The railway once crossed the highway and curved gently down to Lilydale Station. Development of the last kilometre of the trail from the highway to the station has been stalled because the Mount Lilydale College occupies a short section of the alignment.

The Minister for Conservation, Sherryl Garbut has now notified the trail’s committee that the Government has decided not to allow construction of the trail on the original alignment into Lilydale and to confirm leasehold arrangements with the College for 10 years with an option for a further 10 years.

Without this link trail users wanting to reach the station will be forced either to negotiate busy and steep Maroondah Highway or deviate around the College boundaries which involves a very steep slope down from the railway alignment at the College fence.

The Friends of Warburton Trail and the Complete Our Rail Trails Association hold the view that the trail can be developed through the College without adverse effect either to the College’s security or to their access to property lying on both sides of the trail alignment.

A rally is being organised to protest this decision by Complete Our Rail Trails Association.

10.30am Sunday 19 November 2000 at Lilydale Station

A free lunch will be provided on the trail.

For more information contact Sally Gibson from CORT on (03) 9651 5799 or Arthur Francis from the Friends of the Warburton Trail on (03) 9725 7074. E-mail: joarth@redcentre.com .

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Railtrail Signage

There is a perceived need for suitable guidelines covering signage on aailtrails. As a consequence the Railtrails Australia committee have formed a working group to prepare such guidelines. This work will firstly involve preparation of a draft for circulation to interested parties, including Railtrail Committee’s of management, for their input and comment. Following appropriate processing of this comment, it is proposed to publish the guidelines.

Any person interested in being part of the working group or who wishes to have an input in any way is requested to contact Brian Webb, brimar@bayside.hotkey.net.au.

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Can you Help?

Subscriptions Officer

Railtrails Australia is looking for a volunteer to take over the maintenance of our subscriber database. Vince Aitkin, our honorary treasurer has been performing this task for many years, but can no longer do so after the end of this month.

There is not a lot of work involved. Tasks include entering new subscriptions and changes of address. Sending out renewal notices and recording renewals received. Basic computer skills are required.

If you can help or for more information, please mail admin@railtrails.org.au.

Web News Editor

Do you find the news items on the web site interesting? Would you be able to help to keep them up to date?

Railtrails Australia is looking for one or more volunteers to maintain the news section of the web site. This would involve compiling news items sent in and approaching railtrail groups by phone or e-mail for contributions.

Basic web/HTML knowledge would be an advantage.

If you can help or for more information, please mail admin@railtrails.org.au.

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Railtrails at the Melbourne Bicycle Show

Railtrails were well represented at the bike show in Melbourne with almost half of the “community” section of the show taken by railtrails.

In addition to Railtrails Australia who were selling guide books and giving out brochures, there were stands from the Murray to the Mountains, Bass Coast and Moe to Yallourn trails. There were also representatives from the Great Southern and East Gippsland Trails at the show.

A lot of people took the opportunity to find out more about railtrails.

Planing is under way for a next year’s bike show in Sydney.

Railtrail brochures were very popular. Photo credit: Alexander McCooke
A lot of people visited the Railtrails Australia stand. The Murray to the Mountains and Bass Coast stands can be seen in the background. Photo credit: Alexander McCooke
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Results of the First National Tracks and Trails Conference

Information from the First National Tracks and Trails Conference held in Mansfield in May is now available on-line at the Tourism Victoria web site.

The site includes the full text of many of the conference papers, a list of conference invitees, a sumary of the conference and a copy of the conference program.

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