MITCHELL Shire Council has endorsed a feasibility study on a proposed Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail and will now look at the next steps.
A feasibility study on the proposed 78km shared walking, cycling and horse riding path from Wallan to Heathcote was presented to Council last Monday.
The rail trail, which would run through Mitchell Shire and the Greater City of Bendigo, could follow a disused rail corridor from Heathcote Junction to Heathcote, via Wallan and Hidden Valley.
Council gave in-principle support to progressing the rail trail plans, pending government funding and further discussions with landholders.
Council is currently working through the next steps, including the best timing for the establishment of a working group in either the short or long term for the project.
The feasibility report followed a series of community listening posts, one-on-one landholder meetings, stakeholder meetings and a community survey.
More than 680 people were engaged as part of the community consultation, with 78 per cent in favour of the proposed rail trail.
Mitchell Shire Council Mayor Rhonda Sanderson said the feasibility study was a good starting point.
“Through our consultation process it was clear there was an appetite for a rail trail from a lot of our community members, and the feasibility study has shown that the proposed rail trail has the potential to go ahead,” Cr Sanderson said.
“We acknowledge that there is still a lot of work to be done and this is quite a long-term project.
“We will continue our feasibility investigations, which will include advocating for external funding for the next steps of the project, from sources such as the federal and state governments.
“While there have been some concerns raised from some nearby landowners about the trail, if we are successful in securing funding for the next investigative steps, we are very open to working with them to further explore the concept, proposed routes and how it could work.
“It’s important to remember that nothing is set in stone if the trail goes ahead, the routes are flexible and do not have to follow the disused rail trail exactly and there will be no compulsory land acquired.
“The proposed rail trail has the potential for some fantastic economic and health and wellbeing benefits for our community and we are excited about the possibilities it could present for Mitchell Shire.
“Our community is growing and growing quickly. Our communities of the now and into the future will expect these kinds of facilities so it is important we do the planning now so we can take advantage of future funding opportunities.”
The proposed rail trail could potentially link in with the existing O’Keefe Rail Trail from Heathcote to Bendigo.
For more information on the proposed trail, visit engagingmitchellshire.com