New trails for Snowy riders

Riders can look forward to new tourism trails investments in the hills and valleys south of Canberra.

The Snow Valleys Council is laying the groundwork for an expanding network of bike and hiking trails aimed at bringing a significant tourism and economic boost to the region.

Wedged between the Snowy Mountains to the east and the plains to the west, the council area already encompasses many walks and trails that wind through the region, leading visitors to food and wine destinations, towering waterfalls and natural swimming holes.

And for those after a rush of adrenaline, hundreds of kilometres of mountain bike trails allow thrill-seekers to duck and weave through native and plantation forest.

Now the Snowy Valleys Council is looking to bolster these trails and make them a pillar of its recovery from the 2019-2020 bushfires, with $270,000 from the Bushfire Community Recovery and Resilience Fund to help these efforts along and develop a master plan. 

The Regional Tracks and Trails Master Plan – now in draft – will serve as a long-term blueprint for the development of tracks and trails across the Snowy Valleys Region over the coming decade and beyond.

The council conducted online surveys and community workshops throughout 2022 as part of a public consultation process, with participants invited to offer feedback on potential improvements to existing trails, and put forward ideas for new ones.

This published drafts identified five priority trails with the potential to make the region a world-class trail destination.

Among these priority projects is a proposed trail along 32 km of disused railway between the towns of Batlow and Tumut, with Stage 1 running from Batlow to Wybalena. This rail trail would consist of crushed gravel and is billed as a potential food and wine tourism experience, while it is expected that the population of Batlow would also make use of it for fitness and recreation.

Credit: Matt Beaver for Visit Snowy Valleys

Another priority project earmarked in the draft is the Gudja Gudja Mura Trail, a crushed gravel walk and cycle trail that would connect Murray's Crossing with the existing Tumbarumba to Rosewood Rail Trail. A historic travelling stock route of profound significance to First Nations people, the project could include recognition of cultural highlights such as scar and message trees, and would help preserve the history of the area.

Credit: Matt Beaver for Visit Snowy Valleys

Other priority projects include a walking and cycling path linking Tumbarumba to the 426-km long Hume and Hovell Track, upgrades to the existing Tumut River Walk and establishment of a scenic Waterfall Drive Trail connecting popular waterfalls in the region. 

The master plan draft puts the construction costs of the four trails at $7.8M, while the conceptual Waterfall Drive Trail is seen as a promotional activity with minimal costs.

Construction of these trails could be completed in two years, and from there the upside may be substantial according to the cost-benefit analysis outlined in the draft: Each trail would bring in between $2.5 and $5.8 million in tourism and health benefits up until 2041.

The cumulative benefits, through excursions for student education, for example, could be much greater. 

Described as an aspirational plan of what the region's tracks and trails might one day look like, the document offers a vision for improved linking between towns and villages throughout the Snowy Valleys region.

Doing so could improve connectivity and offer healthy ways to explore the area that preserve the natural environment, while delivering considerable economic benefits.

There are no funds allocated for building or maintenance of the tracks as yet. Staff are currently reviewing feedback from community on the draft as they prepare a report for the council's consideration.

Lead image courtesy of Matt Beaver for Visit Snowy Valleys

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