The Mount Alexander and Central Goldfields shires have joined forces, submitting a joint bid to secure $150,000 in state government funding for a feasibility study to develop the proposed Castlemaine-Maryborough Rail Trail.
More than 35 keen cyclists and rail trail devotees descended on Castlemaine last week in support of the bid, which aims to kickstart the proposal that would see the 55km trail developed along the corridor of the disused Castlemaine-Maryborough rail route.
Notably, the cyclists who visited late last week included key Melbourne-based office bearers with Rail Trails Australia, the nation’s peak rail trail body that works for the development and promotion of a rail trail network Australia-wide.
“The feasibility study now needs to be formalised and then appeals made to all three tiers of government,” Rail Trails Australia’s visiting vice-president Steven Kaye told the Express during the visit.
“If we can get this up and running it’ll be terrific.
“Cycle tourism is growing worldwide.”
The visiting cyclists completed a return trip to Maldon along the 18-kilometre Castlemaine to Maldon Trail, one of three major regional trails with which the proposed Castlemaine-Maryborough rail trail would dovetail nicely once built, they said.
“RTA’s vision is for Australia’s disused rail corridors to be protected for their heritage and natural values and enjoyed by the community and visitors for active recreation, such as walking, cycling and horse riding,” Mr Kaye said.
“When visitors come to enjoy these trails they spend money in local businesses.
“Every week trails bring thousands of dollars into regional economies.”
Keen cycling enthusiast, former Mount Alexander Shire mayor Bronwen Machin is a committee member with the locally-based Castlemaine-Maryborough Rail Trail Committee.
She said the proposed 55km Castlemaine-Maryborough trail represented significant potential to ramp up the region’s tourism earnings and benefit local business while showcasing the area’s natural heritage.
“The community has worked hard over the past year or so to put ourselves in the box seat to get funding to get this trail started,” said Ms Machin who frequently gets about on her own electric bicycle.
She said that to date more than than 80 people, small businesses and community groups had donated $18,000 toward the new rail trail push while the shires of Central Goldfields and Mount Alexander had pledged $12,000.
“There is a groundswell of local support for this trail,” Ms Machin said.
“Everyone is putting skin in the game. Now we’re looking for support form the Victorian government.”