Caution Regarding Rail Trails in Fire Prone Areas – UPDATE Jan 07

Further to the original item below, as of the 9th of January 2007 the East Gippsland Rail Trail Committee of Management advise that the rail trail is temporarily closed between Nicholson and Bruthen due to fires. More details at their website.

The committee of the East Gippsland Rail Trail in eastern Victoria offer the following reminder that using rail trails in rural environments during our hot, dry summers requires some extra thought and preparation.

This is particularly so with the present extreme bushfire situation in South Eastern Australia.

“We offer the following note as one angle, which is not aimed at scaring visitors from our rural regions but helping them more fully enjoy any excursion into the country side during what is turning out to be a very tough summer for rural communities.

People contemplating a visit to enjoy the relaxing and diverse environments of rail trails are strongly advised to exercise all due care and caution when venturing into areas which are under a current high fire risk alert, or at any time during the coming months with the extreme dry weather conditions now affecting nearly all rail trails and their nearby landscapes.

Cyclists in particular are likely to NOT be wearing clothing considered suitable for personal body protection in a bush fire event so are also advised to use caution on this account. Natural fibre clothing and full body covering is essential for protection from radiant heat in a bush fire situation. Heavy smoke can also cause confusion and disorientation when in an off-road environment.

Some longer rail trails involve sections and distances which can be isolated from major roads. Travel on longer and more bushland or forested rail trails is best done in mild weather conditions. High wind and high temperature days are best avoided for personal comfort and safety reasons.

When-ever traveling on any rail trail in summer conditions it is imperative that sufficient water is carried, sunscreen protection is used, a mobile phone and even a small portable radio carried tuned to a local ABC information station. Always tell a friend where you will be traveling and check in at the end of the day.”

Local weather conditions can be checked on the Bureau of Meteorology website.

The ABC has conveniently compiled a list of state fire websites.

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Further Economic Research Released on Rail Trails

La Trobe University Associate Professor Sue Beeton has released the results of a further study into the economic effects of Regional Communities and Cycling.

The study was conducted on the Murray to Mountains rail trail in north east Victoria, Australia’s most well used regional rail trail. It follows up on a study of several Victorian rail trails Professor Beeton carried out in 2003.

This study indicates that the Average Expenditure, per person per day is significantly higher than the 2003 report.

The report concludes

Rail Trails provide outstanding opportunities for tourism and recreation, and can encourage outdoor activities and exercise due to the relatively gentle nature of the gradients and the attractive places many pass through. The also provide economic opportunities for the local host communities as well as the increased pride ‘showing your place’ to visitors creates. However they require not only funds to be developed, but significant maintenance support. In addition, local businesses and communities need to proactively develop, manage and promote the Trails to their markets. Successful tourism does not simply happen – it must be planned for and managed for the long term.

The full report can be downloaded here

Professor Beeton has also produced a summary fact sheet that can be obtained by contacting her on Email or contacting Railtrails Australia.

Professor Beeton would appreciate being made aware of if (and when!) this research has assisted any rail trail groups – for her own ‘professional’ and personal interest.

More information on the Murray to Mountains rail trail including map.

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Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (SE Qld) Wins Achievement Award

Congratulations to the Nanango Shire and local community groups on wining the Queensland Outdoor Recreation Federation Government Achievement Award for the development of Linville to Blackbutt rail trail.

Click here for more information on the rail trail including map.

Their efforts were recognised by QORF at a presentation ceremony in October 2006.

Descripiton of the award includes

“This 23 km section of unused railway line has recently been developed to cater for a range of outdoor activities.

The Trail has been developed following negotiations and consultations involving several government agencies, councils and community groups to transform this corridor for multi purpose outdoor recreation use including walking, horse riding and mountain biking.”

More Details at the Awards Site

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Oberon – Tarana Rail Trail (NSW) Open

Aiden Clarke

The first 5km of this rail trail, 190km west of Sydney, is now open.

Click here for more information on the rail trail including map.

Local groups and The Oberon Council have had several attempts to make progress on this rail trail over the last decade so we congratulate them on this achievement.

This is really the first rail trail in NSW on a Public Transport Commission rail corridor so it is a real landmark. The assistance of the corridor managers, Australian Rail Track Corporation must also be acknowledged and augers well for further rail trail development in NSW.

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Port Fairy to Warrnambool Rail Trail (South West Victoria) Receives Funding

The Moyne and Warrnambool Shire councils have been successful in obtaining funding of $850,000 from the Victorian State Government to begin construction of the 33km Port Fairy to Warrnambool rail trail.

Click here for more information on the proposed rail trail including map.

A Victorian state government press release provides more details about the funding.

FROM THE MINISTER FOR STATE & REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT

DATE: Friday, October 13, 2006

PORT FAIRY TO WARRNAMBOOL RAIL TRAIL ON TRACK

A new $2.2 million rail trail linking Port Fairy and Warrnambool will offer another major tourist attraction in the State’s south west region and boost tourist numbers, Minister for State and Regional Development, John Brumby, said today.

During a visit to Port Fairy today, Mr Brumby said the new trail would be built with the help of an $850,000 Bracks Government Regional Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF)grant.

“The Port Fairy to Warrnambool Rail Trail is the first project to be announced as part of the Bracks Government’s $8 million Provincial Pathways Program,” Mr Brumby said.

“This project will build on the strengths of the Great Ocean Road, which is internationally recognized and renowned as a significant tourism destination.

“It will provide another attraction and dimension to the whole tourist experience, becoming a major drawcard along the Shipwreck Coast.”

Mr Brumby said the project involved the construction of a 37-kilometre trail from central Port Fairy to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village and Warrnambool Visitor Information Centre.

The scenic trail – to be built along a disused rail corridor between Port Fairy, Koroit and Illowa – will be used for walking and cycling and will and continue along the road reserve into Warrnambool.

Works will include the construction of the trail and trailheads along with a new boardwalk, repair and reconstruction of bridges and the installation of a highway underpass, along with fencing, screening, drainage and revegetation.

Mr Brumby said the trail would increase the range of activities for visitors to the area.

“The trail is expected to attract an estimated 60,000 users each year, who will inject almost $1.4 million into the local economy,” he said.

“For backpackers particularly, this project has the potential to change visiting patterns from predominantly day trips to overnight and longer stays.”

Mr Brumby said Moyne Shire and Warrnambool City councils would each contribute significant funds for the project with construction due to start in the middle of next year and be completed with in two years.

The Provincial Pathways Program is part of Moving Forward, the Government’s $502 million action plan to make Provincial Victoria the best place to live, work, invest.

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Rail Trail Proponent Steps Down

A familiar sight, Darren in his ‘Mule’ chatting with trail users. Photo credit: Railtrails Austraila archive

The Murray to Mountains Rail Trail manager and general rail trail proponent, Mr Darren Murphy, steps down from his job on the 1st of December 2006. He has been the full time manager of the rail trail, the only such position that we know of in Australia, for over six years.

When the Alpine, Indigo and Wangaratta shires decided to commit to constructing what is now known as the Murray to Mountains rail trail they decided that, if an almost 100km long asset is to be successful, it needed a full time manager and promoter. While the Murray to Mountains rail trail is not unique in having attractive scenery and towns it has clearly become the most used regional rail trail in Australia because of that decision and Darren’s dedication.

However that is not the only reason for this news item since Darren, rather than treating other rail trail proposals as threats to his funding sources and visitor base, took the attitude that the more high quality rail trails the better for all. On many occasions he assisted other proposed rail trails in his own time and attended conferences related to rail trails and tourism. We thank him for his efforts.

As Victoria’s (and Australia’s) first real decade of rail trail progress ends this highlights the situation that many other rail trails will face, particularly those managed by volunteers. The dedicated enthusiastic pioneers who started them all will be moving on and new people of similar caliber will have to be found to keep the rail trail scene progressing and make it sustainable.

We are not sure who will be taking over Darren’s position.

Darren is still far to young to retire yet! but is leaving his options open for future work. Whatever eventuates we wish him well and hope he keeps in touch with the rail trail community.

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High Country Rail Trail (NE Victoria) Receives Major Funding Boost

Sandy Creek Inlet bridge pylons. Photo Credit: Alexander McCooke

The Victorian State Government has promised $1.3 million to seal a further 24km of the trail and bridge half of the gap across Sandy Creek Inlet.

Click here for more information on the rail trail including map.

The rail trail advisory groups, Parklands Albury/Wodonga and the City of Wodonga and Indigo Shire councils are to be congratulated for progressing on with very limited funding for years while always persisting to get this kind of major funding.

The sealed surface between Bandiana and Huon will improve the experience for cyclists. When the 600m long Sandy Creek bridge is reinstated it will be a huge improvement for all users as a 5km diversion on the busy Murray Valley Highway will no longer be necessary. The rail trail advisory groups are hoping that matching federal funding can be obtained to complete the bridge and a first class rail trail all the way to Tallangatta and Old Tallangatta.

Border Mail newspaper provides more information on the announcement

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The 2006 Australasia Cycle Tourism Conference – UPDATE

On 20-21 November some 100 people representing Government, the Australian Cycle Industry, Not for Profit organisations and businesses associated with the Tourism and Cycling Industry,came together at this conference in Adelaide. Details about the conference and its discussion agenda are available at the Cycling Tourism website.

Vince Aitkin represented Railtrails Australia and spoke about rail trails throughout Australia, how they attract a large number of cyclists and discussed ways and means of how users can be better catered for as rail trails develop and expand.

Representatives from Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail, The Riesling Trail and the proposed Adelaide Hills Rail Trail were in attendance and spoke about their facilities (and future trails) and discussed increasing trail user numbers.

It was an excellent Conference and steps are being taken to organise a National Cycle Touring Organisation to work towards expanding and catering for the increase in Cycle Touring throughout Australia.

UPDATE Following the conference the federal government has made funding available as outlined in their media release below.

Media Release

The Hon Fran Bailey, MP

1 December 2006

CYCLE TOURISM CYCLES FORWARD

Cycle tourism has been recognised as an important niche market in the tourism industry with $239,650 funding from the Australian Government.

Tourism Minister Fran Bailey announced the funding today to Bicycle South Australia Inc.

Fran Bailey said cycle tourism was a fast-growing sector in Australia and overseas and had to be developed as a niche market locally.

“The funding will be used to help develop a cycle tourism resource kit to assist regional communities throughout Australia to invest strategically in this exciting market,” Fran Bailey said.

“It will include a series of integrated tool kits and tool boxes, including a ‘how-to manual’ that will equip regional communities with knowledge of how to best invest in cycle tourism.”

The areas that will be focused on are in the Munda Biddi trail region in southern Western Australia, Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail in north eastern Victoria, Redlands and Noosa Shires in Queensland, southern Flinders Ranges in South Australia, and in Tasmania.

“These areas are already showing successful cycle tourism development,” Fran Bailey said.

The funding has been offered under the Australian Government’s $31 million Australian Tourism Development Program which supports innovative and regional tourism projects.

This Program is part of the Australian Government’s strong commitment to creating more jobs in tourism and providing more opportunities for small business in local regions.

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Murray to Mountains Rail Trail (North East Victoria) to be Extended

The Indigo Shire council has been successful in obtaining funding to construct a further 9km section of the Murray to Mountains rail trail from Rutherglen to Wahgunyah.

More information on the rail trail including map.

This is on the closed Springhurst to Wahgunyah rail line in Northeast Victoria. The rails are currently still in place and we understand that the Stringybark Express group are hoping to resume rail trolley services between Rutherglen and Wahgunyah. This 7.5km section will therefore be a rail side trail, which should not be too difficult given the nature of the terrain.

Murray to Mountains Rail Trail Project Officer Darren Murphy reports that the new section will be 9km long as it will extend past the former Wahgunyah Station right to the Murray River.

An on-road connection will link the new trail to the existing trail between Wangaratta and Bright/Beechworth.

Further developments will see trails developed through the Lake Moodemere wetlands, existing trails along the Murray River and a connection to Corowa.

Railtrails Australia congratulate the Indigo Shire which has been seeking funding for several years and, as we have indicated in letters of support, we believe it will be as successful as the existing sections if constructed to the same standard. We look forward to attending the opening that the shire has indicated will be towards the end of 2007.

A Victorian state government press release provides more details about the funding.

FROM THE MINISTER FOR STATE & REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT

DATE: Saturday, October 21, 2006

MURRAY TO MOUNTAINS RAIL TRAIL ON TRACK

The last section of the Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail – from Rutherglen to Wahgunyah – will be built with the help of a $495,000 Bracks Government grant announced today by the Minister for State and Regional Development, John Brumby.

Bridge over the Murray at Wahgunyah. Alexander McCooke

Visiting Rutherglen, Mr Brumby said the grant for the $845,000 Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail – Final Link Project would be provided to Indigo Shire Council through the Victorian Government’s Regional Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF).“This project will complete the ‘Murray Connection’ the final nine-kilometre strategic link in the trail along the rail reserve from Rutherglen to Wahgunyah on the Murray River,” Mr Brumby said.

“The Trail will link to tourism infrastructure in Corowa, New South Wales, via the John Foord and Federation Bridges.

“It will complete the Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail project that was first conceived by the shires of Alpine and Indigo and the Rural City of Wangaratta in 1997.

“The project involved converting the historic path of the disused railways between the three townships of Wangaratta, Bright and Beechworth into a sealed cycling and walking track.”

The final section includes the construction of new, and the integration of existing multi-use unsealed walking tracks, as well as horse riding and cycling trails along the Murray River forming a loop and linking into the Muscat Trail route back into Rutherglen.

Works include the construction of sealed rail trail sections and upgrade of the Muscat Trail, construction of bridges and unsealed pathways alongside the river looping back into the main trail, and directional and interpretive signage.

Mr Brumby said the trail would significantly boost tourism in the region by increasing the range of activities for visitors to the area.

“The section of the trail between Wangaratta and Bright annually attracts about 50,000 users, who inject $21.45 million into the local economy,” he said.

“Modelling by La Trobe University estimates the new link between Rutherglen and Wahgunyah will attract 7500 new users each, generating $1.4 million in economic activity.

Entering Wahgunyah from the north. Photo Credit: Alexander McCooke

“This is on top of the 230,000 tourists who visit the Rutherglen, Corowa and Wahgunyah wine regions each year.”Mr Brumby said Indigo Shire Council would contribute funds for the project along with local industry with construction due to start early next year and the project completed by July 2008.

Mr Brumby said the RIDF had been very successful in leveraging funds to deliver much-needed infrastructure projects across Victoria, including tourism projects.

“The Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail – Final Link project is the second project to be announced as part of the Government’s $8 million Provincial Pathways Program,” Mr Brumby said.

“The Provincial Pathways Program is part of Moving Forward, the Government’s $502 million action plan to make Provincial Victoria the best place to live, work, invest and raise a family.

“Overall, the RIDF has now contributed $334.3 million to 123 major infrastructure projects across Victoria.”

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2006 Annual General Meeting

The Railtrails Australia annual general meeting will be held 7pm Friday 10th November 2006 at North Carlton Railway Station Neighbourhood House in Solly Ave Carlton North in Melbourne. Nominations for the Committee have been received and are:

Damian McCrohan, Vince Aitkin, Michael Oxer, Alexander McCooke, Frank Kinnersley and Malcolm Brown.

All members and visitors are welcome to attend. Please RSVP oursecretary or treasurer by Thursday 9th November so we can arrange light refreshments to follow the AGM.

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