Residents wary of rail trail project
LANDHOLDERS between Wallan and Heathcote are worried their concerns over a proposed rail trail through the area won’t be heard, leaving them to deal with the possible loss of farmland.
The Mitchell Shire, together with the City of Greater Bendigo and the Victorian Government, are working to assess the feasibility of a new 65km rail trail from Wallan to Heathcote for recreational walkers, cyclists and possibly horse riders.
There is a possibility the Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail could connect with the popular O’Keefe Rail Trail, which extends from Heathcote to Bendigo. At 114km long, a full trail between Wallan and Bendigo would be the third longest rail trail in Australia.
It is envisaged that the route could one day form the key central link of a trail running from inner Melbourne along the Merri Creek, all the way to Bendigo.
However, residents along the proposed route aren’t convinced they have any say in the matter.
Submissions on the proposal close Monday, March 20.
The current feasibility study into the project has some residents in Heathcote, Pyalong, Tooborac and surrounds con- cerned their voices won’t be heard.
Although not against the trail, Pyalong’s Marla Stone said she was worried people who may be affected don’t know about it.
‘‘I have some serious concerns about a number of aspects but primarily the very short time line for consideration — only one month,’’ she said.
‘‘The trail is a great idea but it will creep on to people’s properties with concerns over interruptions to farmland, littering and bio security.
‘‘We operate a heavy vehicle transport business and we don’t think sharing the road with bike riders would be very safe.’’
Ms Stone isn’t the only one not sold on the idea.
Sixty people have commented on a Facebook post by Mitchell Shire advertising information about listening sessions with mixed responses.
‘‘Terrible idea Mitchell Shire. No amount of money you offer will compensate for the financial and emotional stress you are going to cause to the private landholders of the land you plan on compulsory acquisition,’’ Tash Fyfe wrote.
However, there were posts in support of the idea.
‘‘I’ve been campaigning for this for more than a decade. I hope it will go ahead and any one who owns land affected by it will be fairly treated and compensated for any loss or disruption to their lifestyle/ property,’’ Tanya Matthews wrote.
A Mitchell Shire spokesman said council was in the process of making follow-up phone calls to ensure landowners were given the opportunity to speak to them about the study.
‘‘Council encourages people to have their say by visiting the ‘Engaging Mitchell Shire’ website, learning more about the feasibility study and completing the feedback form or an online submission,’’ he said.
‘‘It is important to note that a future Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail is only a possibility at this stage.
‘‘Council is in early conversations with the community to determine the feasibility of the project.
‘‘Potential routes for the trail outlined in maps are only indicative and could alter following discussions with landholders, should the project go ahead.’’
To have your say you can visit a community listening post at one of the following two locations:
Pyalong Primary School car park on Wednesday, February 22, 3pm-4pm; and
Heathcote Bush Market on Saturday, March 4, 9am - 12pm.
More information can be found at engagingmitchellshire.com