rail-trail-funding-a-welcome-shockDeputy Premier and The Nationals Member for Gippsland South Peter Ryan, left, announced $1.3 million to complete an important link of the Great Southern Rail Trail. Joining Mr Ryan at the announcement were, from left The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region Danny O’Brien, rail trail committee member Bruce Beatson, Cr Mohya Davies and South Gippsland Shire Council CEO Tim Tamlin. N034014

THE missing link in the Great Southern Rail Trail will be completed before the end of next year after a surprise State Government funding announcement was made on Thursday.
The missing 2.6km section of the trail, known as the Black Spur between Koonwarra and Meeniyan, includes three rotting timber trestle bridges over the Tarwin River.
A $1.85 million project will see all three bridges reconstructed and the trail completed.
Gippsland South MP Peter Ryan made the announcement in Koonwarra last week.
The State Government will contribute $1.3 million and the South Gippsland Shire Council the balance.
The project will create an unbroken 69km route between Leongatha and Welshpool.
Mr Ryan said the Black Spur section would be carried out in two simultaneous stages.
“The bottom line is that what we’re announcing today is that we’ll be able to fix the whole lot in the one go.”
The first stage of the works will include demolition and reconstruction of two historic bridges spanning the Black Spur Creek; construction of a 130 metre connecting trail between the two bridges; and construction of a picnic area and viewing location at the end of the second bridge.
Mr Ryan said Stage 2 would connect the end of the second Black Spur rail trestle bridge and picnic area to Meeniyan. The works will include reconstructing a 146 metre bridge that spans the Tarwin River; constructing a 170 metre connecting trail between two bridges; and constructing an 800 metre connecting trail between bridge three and Minns Road.
New signs and even fitness stations could be included in the upgrades, while a detailed marketing and promotional campaign will also be developed.
“The Black Spur project will complete the missing section of the rail trail and create a seamless 69 kilometre route between Leongatha and Welshpool,” Mr Ryan said.
Mr Ryan said the government’s $1.3 million investment included $1 million from the Regional Growth Fund and $290,000 from the Advancing Country Towns program.
“The Great Southern Rail Trail is a major asset to the South Gippsland region, attracting tourists, supporting local businesses and improving the health and wellbeing of local residents,” Mr Ryan said.
“When complete, the Black Spur connection will provide more than $1.9 million in annual economic benefits to the region through tourism-related business opportunities, employment and new attractions.”
He thanked the South Gippsland Shire Council for its “unyielding support” for the development of the project, and the rail trail committee.
“It started out as an impossible dream, but the committee’s many members over a number of years, beginning with Eric Cumming, have done a remarkable job, all on a voluntary basis.
“This is a rare opportunity to celebrate their contribution. Where would we be without them?”
Committee chairman Neville Pulham said it was a momentous occasion.
“It started in 1997 with one guy’s vision (Eric Cumming), and it’s great to be able to push it along and get to the point we’re at today.”
Mr Pulham said the South Gippsland Shire Council had provided tremendous support with grant applications and engineering reports.
Member for Eastern Victoria Region Danny O’Brien welcomed the investment and also commended the committee for their work.
“Extending the rail trail has been a high priority for the Coalition Government, the community and the Committee of Management, and thanks to this investment we will now complete another vital link in this impressive rail trail,” Mr O’Brien said.
“This Black Spur leg will consolidate the entire length of the rail trail between Leongatha and Welshpool and represents the realisation of a long held vision for the Great Southern Rail Trail.”
Mr O’Brien said the project would be completed by December 2015.


What’s your vision for the rail trail?

THE Great Southern Rail Trail Committee and the South Gippsland Shire Council is seeking community input into the Marketing and Promotion Plan for the Great Southern Rail Trail (GSRT).
What features would you like to see promoted? What makes the GSRT special? How should it be branded? What infrastructure is needed along the trail? Your views are important.
Consultation with the community is a key feature of the project.
Forums will be held next week in Leongatha, Meeniyan, Fish Creek and Foster where you will have the opportunity to put your ideas forward to help shape the vision and the brand.
“The Great Southern Rail Trail (GSRT) Extension Project is an exciting one for South Gippsland, providing major funding support to build and market a nationally recognised tourism asset,” said Ned Dennis, the council’s Community Strengthening manager.
“An obligation of the grant is to engage design and marketing consultants to evaluate the trail product, brand and market the experience, and plan an integrated suite of directional and interpretative signs and trail infrastructure.”
Leading Melbourne design company Heine Jones has been awarded the contract and they will now work with the GSRT committee, the community and the council in the next six months to develop the Marketing and Promotion Plan.
Stage 3 of the trail is being built to extend the trail from Toora to Welshpool, and funding has been announced to complete the 2.6km Black Spur section to provide a continuous 67.5km trail from Leongatha to Welshpool.
Rail trail users, community groups, and interested individuals are encouraged to have their say at one of the following forums next week.


* Tuesday, June 10, Leongatha Memorial Hall, 6.30 to 8.30pm
* Wednesday, June 11, Meeniyan Hall, 6.30 to 8.30pm.
* Thursday, June 12, Fish Creek Hall, 10am to noon.
* Thursday, June 12, Foster Hall, 6.30 to 8.30pm.
RSVP to Danielle Todaro on 5662 9322 or daniellet@southgippsland.vic.gov.au by Monday, June 9, indicating which forum you are attending.
If you are unable to attend these forums but would like to have input, take a few minutes to complete the simple online survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PNXPQHN