COUNCILLOR Mohya Davies described it as “the best report I’ve seen since I’ve been in Council”.
Cr Mimmie Jackson, well-known for her love of cycling, was equally enthusiastic. “Everyone knows I tend to get a bit worked up on the subject of bikes, but I am also keen to do the right thing by the many people in our community who like to walk,” she said.
In its meeting last Wednesday, South Gippsland Shire Council adopted the South Gippsland Shire Council Paths and Trails Strategy 2010. There was unanimous support for the report and for the recommendation that Council actively pursue appropriate funding opportunities to assist with implementation of the priorities.
“A lot of shire officers have put effort into this document and hopefully it will be well used,” said Cr Jackson.
The original Paths and Trails Strategy was developed in 2001. Andrew Nixon from Land Use Management (and a one-time shire officer) was engaged during 2009/10 to review and update this strategy with funding jointly provided by the Department of Planning and Community Development, and Council.
The key objective of the strategy is “to review the status of the bicycle and walking facilities in South Gippsland and to identify the work required to provide an improved network of trails”.
Expressing disappointment that as little as 12 per cent of the original strategy had been implemented, Cr Jackson said that the report acknowledged the difficulties which had led to this low level of success. She said every effort would be made by Council to access money from the government so that much more of the new strategy was implemented.
Seconding Cr Jackson’s motion to endorse the report, Cr Davies said that Foster’s walking trails are an important feature of the town.
The councillor, who lives just outside Foster, added that increasingly, as she drove into town, she was seeing groups of cyclists making use of the rail trail.
“The rail trail is of paramount importance to Foster,” she said. “I am hopeful that Council will be able to source funding so that the rail trail and the other priority projects in this report can go ahead.”
The strategy is set within a federal and state government focus on active transport. It recognises that a “high quality, highly visible walking/cycling network around and through South Gippsland Shire will invite people to consider walking, cycling and horse riding for their recreational and transport needs in the local area”.
The report details a series of projects in order of priority, by township and by project type. Cost estimates, project partners and funding opportunities have been identified in the strategy to assist with project implementation.
There was widespread community consultation in the development of the strategy, concluding that the following issues needed to be considered:
- Extension and further development of the Great Southern Rail Trail;
- Poor carriageway shoulders cause difficulty for cyclists;
- Gaps in footpath connections;
- Safety issues at intersections due to design or conflict with traffic;
- Missing or inadequate signage, road and path markings;
- Poor off/on road cycle/walking path links and a lack of continuity;
- Poor shared parking/cycle lane design;
- Cycle connections to newly developed areas need to be constructed;
- Establish cycle parking and trip end facilities.
The report has maps and ideas for most of the towns in the shire, including the following observations about Foster:
- Opportunity exists to expand Foster’s role as a stopover town for visitors to the South Gippsland region and as a point to base themselves for longer periods.
- The completion of The Great Southern Rail Trail to Welshpool/Yarram should be a high priority for Council to act as an advocate to ensure this extension proceeds.
- Potential exists for the creation of cycle lanes to Wilsons Promontory via the Foster-Promontory Rd, a VicRoads managed Road (may have to wait for a road re-seal or upgrade).
- Designated and signposted on-road bicycle lanes are non-existent in Foster.
- On-road bicycle lanes leading from the Great Southern Rail Trail into Foster would encourage a diversion for touring cyclists.
- The high number of day trippers and tourist buses travelling through Foster pose a safety risk for on-road cyclists.
- Further development of Stockyard Creek for passive off-road walking opportunities should be further explored. An opportunity exists to link Pearl Park with the Rail Trail.
- The future development of the Foster Railway Station/yards will further enhance the Great Southern Rail Trail link with Foster.
- Few cyclists were noted during project review, however ten mountain bike riders attended the public meeting.
The report lists a total of 98 projects and gives top priority to the following:
- Resolving the route of the Great Southern Rail Trail between Koonwarra and Meeniyan.
- Continuing the Great Southern Rail Trail from Foster to Welshpool and Yarram.
- An off-road shared path at Sandy Point in the vicinity of Beach Parade, Acacia St.,Graeme Grv., Woodland Ave to Manuka St.
- An off-road shared path from Manuka Street to Shallow Inlet access at Sandy Point.
Download The Paths and Trails Strategy 2010 or it can be viewed on the Council website or contact SGSC Governance 03 5662 9222 for a copy.