The feasibility study for the Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail – which could eventually provide a link from Melbourne to Bendigo – has been released and will go before Mitchell Shire for consideration next month.
The proposal is for a 78km trail for walking, horses and bikes.
The trail would closely follow the former rail corridor between Heathcote Junction and Heathcote, with a spur to Wallan Station via Hidden Valley, and a second link to Wandong and the Hume Highway.
Wallan is not that far from the fringe of metropolitan Melbourne’s most northern growth area, and there is great potential for this trail to become a vital recreational facility for the future population in the city’s north.
The proposed trail could link into Melbourne via an extension of the Merri Creek trail.
And it could also be connected to the Great Victorian Rail Trail which stretches from Tallarook to Mansfield.
The O’Keefe Trail from Bendigo the Heathcote has been extensively developed in recent years by an enthusiastic local community. Similarly, the Mitchell Shire BUG has been actively involved in developing the current proposal
During the year-long feasibility study, extensive community consultation established there is now solid support to link Wallan to Heathcote.
The study establishes that task is technically feasible.
Challenges facing the project include the fact that sections of the trail have been dismantled and sold off.
Landholders have raised a number of objections to the trail going across or adjacent to their properties.
They say there are fire and bio-security risks, but if that were really the case then all the roads in the district would already be closed off, as that is how fire-bugs and diseased stock usually travel.
Many rail trails have initially been resisted by local communities, but they have grown to love them and are now among the strongest supporters.
Bicycle Network expect the wise councillors of Mitchell Shire to adopt the study, and seek funding from state and federal governments to get the project underway.
Riders who are keen to see such a trail build can drop a line to the council highlighting the benefits.