ON Wednesday September 20 at the Public Presentation Day at Council Chambers there was a strategy review on the Paths and Trails Strategy.
Consultant Andrew Nixon who gave the presentation said himself that it was a ‘desk top assessment’ with inherent flaws because of that.
He showed a map with a yellow square around what is private land and said that it could be subject to an objection by the landowner.
“The land is in fact owned by the Farrells and has been for the last 100 years,” said Tony Walker from the Hoddle Mountain Trail Management Group (HMTMG).
“The Farrells have been the prime movers for the last 15 years in getting this trail up.”
Richard Dargaville from HMTMG added that there are no major issues only minor ones.
“They are all solvable by very simple means,” he said.
For one hundred years people have been enjoying this stunning walking track.
“It is an existing track and has nothing in common with the Rail Trails in terms of infrastructure and cost,” Richard said.
Mayor Ray Argento said there had been a great deal of angst over Councillor Meg Edwards attempting to lock a gate, which prevented walkers continuing on the 17km walk.
She was asked to remove the lock to allow access to emergency services and to the owner of neighbouring land.
She and her partner own land adjacent to the trail and say they were unaware of the trail when they bought it.
When asked for comment by The Mirror, Councillor Edwards said she had a conflict of interest and couldn’t comment.
The previous owner, Joe Talbot, said there were never any problems when he owned the land.
“What would be more helpful would be if Meg Edwards agreed to sit down, with a mediator if necessary, and work things out,” said Richard.
“It has to be resolved,” said Tony. “All that is required is some leadership and good will.”
The Mayor said there could be issues with the quarry but Richard said that the track is hundreds of metres from the quarry. (Land owned by council and leased out.)
“The sorts of people who walk along these tracks don’t go walking into quarries. It is not in their nature,” Richard said.
“Some simple signage is required and some good fencing. It’s been a popular walk to go from Fish Creek along the railway line up Battery Creek Valley. Near the top of the quarry hill you get tremendous views down over Fish Creek.”
Council has advised HMTMG that there is nothing to stop people walking on the track.
In Councillors’ questions after the presentation Jeremy Rich said he had just returned from Switzerland where farmers, communities and authorities cooperate to develop and manage trails to the benefit of everyone.
“We haven’t been given any feedback from Council at all,” Tony said.
“It is not a new project which is how it was characterised at the Council meeting on Wednesday.”
Richard said, “The fact is, looking back over the last 10 years no money has been spent on it at all. Prior to that some work was done by volunteers.”
“They developed a 4 gate system which allows complete separation between farm stock and walkers. These gates need to be reinstated.”
Tony and Richard say all they need from Council is for them to say, “yes it’s a good idea and we support it.”
“A little bit of money would be nice but we don’t need very much. If they said we support it but we can’t give you any money we can cope with that,” said Richard. “We have ways and means for raising money. It’s not going to die through lack of funds.”
HMTMG would like to publicise the track more. It is a terrific community asset but until things are clarified with Council they are hamstrung.
“It has a lot of community support and even has potential for money making ventures for farmers in the future,” Tony said.
“I took great delight in seeing how blown away Tony was when I took him up to a part of the track he hadn’t seen before,” Richard said.
“It’s simply a matter of signage and common sense and then everyone can continue to enjoy this valuable asset.
“The Rail Trails Andrew Nixon spoke about are interesting and exciting but they’re long term and expensive. All the things that this track is not.