The Mirror News

Long wait ahead for path linking beach towns

A WALKING and bicycle path linking Sandy Point and Waratah Bay is number one on the wish list of recreational facilities for Sandy Point residents – but it looks like they could be waiting a long time for their dream to be realised.

Dr Neil Shaw, on behalf of the Sandy Point Community Group, raised the matter in a public presentation to South Gippsland Shire Council last Wednesday. He requested Council add the path project to the official Paths and Trails Strategy list and was disappointed to be told that the Strategy would not be reviewed until 2015 and there are no plans to amend the list in the meantime.

Dr Shaw began his presentation by saying that during 2012 a recreational study of the needs of Sandy Point was conducted by an independent consultant, Michelle Harris from ‘Hands-On Solutions.’ The study was funded by a council grant and a copy of the full report has been delivered to Council.

“There are several recommendations arising from the study, the most popular of which is a proposed walking and bicycle path linking Waratah to Sandy Point,” said Dr Shaw. “The report outlines a proposal for a public pathway from Waratah to Sandy Pont along public land on the inland side (northern side) of the sand dunes which follow the Waratah Bay foreshore. This proposal also has the support of residents at Waratah Bay who would make use of the pathway.”

Dr Shaw argued that the proposal for a track linking Waratah to Sandy Point would encourage bikes and pedestrians off the roads and onto a safer track and would encourage visitors to the area, becoming a tourist attraction in itself. He said that the recently constructed Venus Bay to Tarwin Lower trail illustrates how a path linking two small villages can have positive outcomes. This was acknowledged by the mayor, Cr Kieran Kennedy, a resident of Venus Bay and a strong supporter of that trail.

Dr Shaw said that he was aware a couple of adjoining landowners objected to the proposed track, but this, he said, was countered by overwhelming support from the community. “Farmers near rail trails throughout Victoria have often objected to pathways going near their properties, but this proximity is not a legitimate reason for objecting to a public track, especially one that already exists. There is no history of rail trail users impacting negatively on farmers and their activities,” he said.

There is, said Dr Shaw, a proposal in the current Paths and Trails Strategy to construct a bike path from Manuka Street to Shallow Inlet by widening the gravel edges of the existing sealed roadway at an estimated cost of $200,000.

“The very popular Roy Henderson pathway from Manuka Street to Shallow Inlet which was constructed in 2010 by the foreshore committee duplicates this path,” argued Dr Shaw. “The Henderson path is via the bush, not the road, and is therefore a safer route. It would seem sensible from both safety and economic standpoints for Council to acknowledge and maintain this existing track rather than proposing to duplicate it.”

In conclusion, Dr Shaw said: “The Sandy Point Community Group asks Council to accept the Sandy Point Recreational Study recently presented. We ask that Council supports all the proposals, particularly the main recommendation, namely adding the Waratah to Sandy Point bike path on the Council’s Path and Trails Strategy list.”

In response to a query from Cr Kennedy, shire’s Director of Community Services, Jan Martin, said that the Paths and Trails Strategy, which lists 90 projects, is currently in its second year and a full review is not due until 2015, although shire does take a look at the strategy each year.

Dr Shaw pleaded that the path between Waratah and Sandy Point be at least listed as a project to be considered.

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