Web_j223513CYCLISTS, runners and walkers turned out in force to test themselves on the newest section of the Great Southern Rail Trail, an 8.6km section of trail linking Foster and Toora.  Deputy Premier Peter Ryan was on hand to officially open the new section of trail and waved off competitors at Foster’s Station Park on Sunday morning.  Participants were competing for prizes including first cyclist, runner and walker to complete the trail between Station Park and Toora’s Sagasser Park.

Mr Ryan said the Foster to Toora section completed Stage 1 of the $2.9 million three stage Great Southern Rail Trail Extension project, which received $2 million in funding support from the Victorian Coalition Government’s $1 billion Regional Growth Fund. “The Foster to Toora section involved the construction of 8.6km of trail, including the installation of four bridges and associated infrastructure such as signs, seating, bike parking and safety crossings,” Mr Ryan said. “This is the first stage of 18.5km of extensions to the Great Southern Rail Trail that will link Foster to Welshpool.  “Stage 2 of the project, which involves an extension from Toora to Agnes, will begin later this year, with Stage 3 from Agnes to Welshpool to begin next year.”

Mr Ryan said the Great South Rail Trail, which starts in Leongatha, is a fantastic asset for the South Gippsland region.  “Once complete, this extension is expected to generate around $5.5 million from increased tourism for the region over a three year period,” Mr Ryan said.  “Extending the rail trail has been a high priority for the South Gippsland Shire Council and the Committee of Management for many years, and we are now one step closer towards the completion of this important project.”  President of the Rail Trail Committee, Neville Pulham, said the opening was a fantastic event supported by a huge number of locals.  “I never thought this day would actually come, it’s a breath of fresh air for this area,” Mr Pulham said.  “The extension is brilliant with all the work and bridges that has gone in to make it possible.”

Through initiatives such as the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund, Mr Ryan said the State Government is working in partnership with local councils, community groups and associations to drive new growth and investment opportunities in regional communities. “In just over two years, the Regional Growth Fund has supported almost 1200 projects throughout regional and rural Victoria, leveraging more than $1.4 billion in total investment,” Mr Ryan said.  “This includes a number of important projects throughout South Gippsland including $2 million to develop Port Anthony, $2.5 million to assist South Gippsland Shire carry out various infrastructure improvement projects, and $282,000 towards the redevelopment of three public halls in the Corner Inlet region.”