The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester is backing a $1 million upgrade of Gippsland Plains Rail Trail to create tourism jobs and safe exercise opportunities for local residents.
Mr Chester is urging all levels of government to work with the community to deliver the final stage of the popular rail trail, which stretches 67 kilometres between Traralgon and Stratford.
“The volunteer committee has done an outstanding job for 20 years to get the trail to this stage but we need to finish the job,” Mr Chester said.
“It’s the only trail in Victoria where you can catch a train with your bike and ride from either end.
“This project has strong community support and is an investment that will bring more people into the region to support small businesses in towns and provide healthy, safe exercise opportunities for people of all ages.
“Governments at all levels need to work together to create new opportunities for Gippsland and Latrobe Valley to build up the tourism, hospitality and small business sectors.”
Mr Chester said he was seeking Federal Government funding for the much-needed rail trail improvements. However, the project would need funding from other sources including the Victorian Government, Latrobe City Council and Wellington Shire Council.
“For traders along the route, including those in Glengarry, Toongabbie, Cowwarr, Heyfield, Tinamba and Maffra, rail trail tourism provides a welcome boost to their business,” Mr Chester said.
“As new sections of the trail have opened, the towns and businesses along the trail have reported steady growth in trade as the numbers of cyclists and walkers have risen. Now, around 3000 people use it each month.
“Capitalising on the visitor economy means having good infrastructure like walking and bike trails to attract people to our region to complement our natural features in Gippsland.”
The rail trail committee is seeking $1 million in funding for four improvement projects, including a new bridge over the Thomson River; upgrading the Eaglehawk Creek crossing; and sealing the trail from the Princes Highway to Glengarry.
Earlier this year, Mr Chester secured almost $980,000 for the Haunted Hills bike park project at Hernes Oak, and $1.5 million to build 81 kilometres of mountain bike trails near Omeo.