Plans to develop the Castlemaine-Maryborough Rail Trail have moved a step closer with the state government committing $120,000 to assist with crucial planning for the project.
Bendigo West MP Maree Edwards visited Joyces Creek on Friday to announce the funding for a feasibility study at the foot of the now disused 1940 Joyces Creek Railway Bridge over Cairn Curran Reservoir, which is set to be a focal point of the trail.
The project aims to enhance tourism to Castlemaine, Maryborough and small towns along the trail, and celebrate the region’s goldfields heritage, First Nations culture and natural environment, including the world-recognised wetlands of the Moolort Plains.
The funding investment from the state government’s Enabling Tourism Fund will allow the study to examine the 55km recreational trail project and plan for its future development.
The Castlemaine-Maryborough Rail Trail would deliver new walking and cycling tracks on the current disused railway line and allow visitors to experience the area’s beautiful landscapes from a new perspective. It would also boost tourism, local businesses and jobs.
Ms Edwards said the Castlemaine-Maryborough Rail Trail was an exciting project for our region and she hoped this critical work could be carried out without delay.
“For me it’s not just about a rail trail, it is about connecting two communities. Both towns, Castlemaine and Maryborough, are different but have a lot to offer and what they do share is that goldfields heritage,” she said.
“Coming off COVID, a project like this is so important to attract tourism to our region to boost our economy.
“And for those towns that dot the map between these two larger cities, including Campbells Creek, Guildford, Newstead and Carisbrook, hopefully we will also see visitors stopping along the trail for lunch or to stay and enjoy everything those towns have to offer,” she said.
The Castlemaine-Maryborough Rail Trail Association Inc led the joint bid for the funds with the two shires through which the trail will pass, Central Goldfields and Mount Alexander.
The iconic Joyces Creek bridge stands on the border of the two shires and provided a symbolic place to celebrate the funding announcement.
CMRT president Janice Simpson thanked Ms Edwards, the councils and Regional Development Victoria for their support of the project.
“This is a milestone day for our trail and the community. We have had resounding support from the community over the past two years. This is a day for trailblazers,” she said.
“Standing behind our bid are more than 4000 supporters, 100 donors, as well as 30 businesses, schools, individuals and elected officials who have declared they want this trail.
“We estimate the trail can bring up to 30,000 visitors and another $8 million each year into towns along the trail, and provide safe commuting and accessible wellbeing opportunities for thousands of local people,” she said.
The study is expected to start in late spring and conclude in early 2023.
If funding is secured, it is hoped construction on the first stage of the trail could begin as early as 2024.