THE dream of residents and visitors to Sandy Point and Waratah Bay for an off-road shared trail, ‘Waratah Way,’ between the two townships is a step closer to becoming a reality.
At the council meeting last Wednesday, South Gippsland Shire Council voted to investigate the development of such a trail in the review of the 2010 Paths and Trails Strategy to be undertaken in 2015/16. An investigation could include assessing construction and maintenance costs, impact on local vegetation and ecology, consultation with adjoining landholders, responsibility for management and maintenance of the trail, and funding sources available for the project if it were to proceed.
No budget allocation has been made in the 2015/16 draft council budget or in the Long Term Financial Plan to support the construction and maintenance of a trail. However, inclusion on the Paths and Trails Strategy would at least mean the long-awaited trail has some chance of happening.
Last month trail proponents presented a petition to Council carrying 1065 signatures.
“There is overwhelming support for the trail,” said Sandy Point Community Group member Cathy Giles. “It has been talked about for four or five years. It’s time to make it happen.”
The route envisaged for the four and a half kilometre trail is an old fire access track from the car park at Ned Neale’s Lookout at Sandy Point to The Gap at Waratah Bay. It is Crown land, under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). Three kilometres at the Sandy Point end are managed by the local foreshore committee, while the shire is responsible for the one and a half kilometres at the other end. The cost has been estimated at $100,000, with hopes of raising this sum over a staged timeframe.
DELWP, said Ms Giles, is supportive of the proposal and would be prepared to slash the track (which hasn’t been slashed for several years) and supply resources for a natural features survey to understand the topography of the land.
“Some minor investment now will enable a clear appraisal of the feasibility of the trail, understanding any issues to be addressed,” she said.
In a presentation to Council, she pointed out that trails are proven community and tourism assets, providing healthy recreation opportunities for locals and attractions for tourists. The Roy Henderson Path, completed in recent years and running from Manuka Street to Shallow Inlet, has proved extremely popular with cyclists and walkers. The ‘Waratah Way’ would cater for a similar market at the other end of Sandy Point, providing an opportunity for cyclists and walkers to keep well away from the fast-moving traffic on the busy main road into Sandy Point.