By Aaron Goodwin
Cyclists are chomping at the bit to hopefully soon be able to access Bundaberg Regional Council’s proposed $19 million and 46 kilometre long Bundaberg to Gin-Gin rail trail.
The State Government has contributed $9.5 million towards the $19 million required for the first two stages of construction with extensive community consultation before the trail goes ahead.
Bundaberg Cycling Club president Wayne Morden has seen firsthand the success that regional rail trails have had in Victoria when he was a member of the Port Fairy Cycling Club.
Mr Morden said that the 37 kilometre long rail trail from Port Fairy to Warrnambool acted as a pathway that connected town-to-town and even saw commuters opt to ride their bikes along the trail to and from work.
“There are lot of rail trail opportunities down there in Victoria and it’s a big tourism drawcard for local businesses and regional townships to attract cyclists to the region,” Mr Morden said.
“It’s something that a lot of cyclists are worried about cycling on the roads and it’s dangerous to be on the roads so having an option to use those tails that are away from vehicles is important to us
“We as a club may even be interested in hosting races that incorporate part of the trail, we did that back in Victoria so as club we’d look at running activities in conjunction with that track.”
Rail trails are shared-use paths recycled from abandoned railway corridors, used for walking, cycling and horse riding.
The Murray to Mountain Rail Trail in Victoria viewed by many as Australia’s premier rail trail attracts more than 140,000 visitors annually.
Mayor Jack Dempsey said that the trail is estimated to attract 312,000 local users per year.
“The rail trail will contribute to improved health, tourism growth and community connections,” he said.
“North Bundaberg and Gin Gin in particular will see increased business activity and have new recreational opportunities.
“Splitters Creek Bridge and historic railway stations at the trail heads will be major attractions for users and visitors.
“If there are 3000 new day trippers a year that will pump $435,300 into the regional economy.
“If the trail converted 2000 day trippers into overnight visitors, this will inject an additional $418,080 a year into the regional economy.
“The multiplier effect is potentially huge.”
Bundaberg Chamber of Commerce president Tim Sayre is excited about the economic benefits from the potential $19 million rail trail.
“People see the rail as going from Bundaberg to Gin-Gin but there’s also the other way going back from Gin-Gin to Bundaberg so there are opportunities for both ends of the trail that businesses can capitalise on,” Mr Sayre said.
“I can see somebody being entrepreneurial maybe even setting something up part way along as a point of difference for the people that are traversing it to access
“It gives you something else to do when you come to this beautiful area rather than the turtles and rum, we can add healthy trail walking to that as well.
“Bundaberg and the area is not known for lengthy trails, we have ones along Bargara which are good, but this takes that to another level.”
Mr Morden said that right now it’s a daily battle for local cyclists to get from point A to B with increased traffic on the highways.
“Looking at Bundaberg you’ve got the Bruce Highway, we could ride all around Childers and get to South Kolan if we had a safe access,” Mr Morden said.
“We have to cross that Bruce Highway or the Isis Highway and no matter what the situation is as a cyclist, even if we aren’t doing the wrong thing, we will always come off second best.
“On the flipside, this trail will also provide a safe opportunity for families to go and cycle together
“If we can set up safe environments that are free and safely accessible for those people, the health benefits to the community will be fantastic.”
Council has undertaken both the feasibility Study and Trail Development Plan to consider future funding investment to develop the trail and will be looking at funding arrangements for the rail trail over the next few months.
A council spokesperson said there will be extensive community consultation before the trail goes ahead.