JOHN Kennedy is a man on a mission. The former professional cyclist and owner of Korumburra’s Bicycle Fitting Store wants the Great Southern Rail Trail extended from Leongatha to Korumburra, and beyond, and he wants it done without any more delay.
John says it’s what the community wants, and what it needs, and he’s had enough of waiting for the council to get the ball rolling.
It’s been 12 months since John first approached South Gippsland Shire Council with the idea to extend the rail trail to Korumburra and eventually to Bena, Loch, and Nyora.
Frustrated with the lack of action, John recently launched a petition, distributing it throughout local shops and eateries, as well as making it available online.
John says every business he approached has been supportive of his idea, and that the petition collected around 600 signatures in its first five days.
When he gets enough signatures – he’s aiming for 5000 by February – he says he’s taking it straight to the Premier.
John, who opened his Commercial Street business last year after making a ‘tree change’ from Melbourne, says the rail trail extension would bring many benefits to Korumburra, not only boosting amenity for locals, but also bringing tourism and real estate sales.
“Let’s give people another reason to come to South Gippsland,” he says. “Linking all the towns from Leongatha to Nyora will create a whole new mecca of cycling for South Gippsland, instead of everyone going to Bass Coast or Phillip Island to use the bike paths there.
“People want to ride but this place doesn’t lend itself to that. People come to my shop from all over Victoria and say they don’t feel safe riding on narrow Gippsland roads but they would ride on a trail.”
John says the extension would bring millions of dollars in revenue for shops and other local businesses.
“Think about all the breakfasts, lunches, dinners, coffees people will buy. They’ll need accommodation, banking services… They’ll see the cheap house prices. Everyone benefits.
“Towns like Yea have boomed since a bike path was introduced. The reason Leongatha hasn’t is that the path is on the outskirts of town, so you have no flow through.”
He says the project would create employment opportunities for locals such as earth moving contractors and there are many creative possibilities for repurposing old railway materials such as the sleepers and steel from the existing track.
“For those that think the train is coming back – it’s a $2 billion job to redo all the infrastructure to run a train again after 40 years. It’s not going to happen. Not in our lifetime.
“I’m not normally a bike path person but it’s the best solution for this town,” he says. “The entire community needs to get behind this and make this happen.”
To sign the petition, go to www.ipetitions.com/petition/railtrail or check your local café for a printed version. Any businesses/organisations wanting to display the petition can phone John on 5655 1210.