IT’S official! The long-awaited Black Spur section of the Great Southern Rail Trail between Koonwarra and Minns Road, Meeniyan is now complete, creating a seamless Rail Trail from Leongatha to Port Welshpool.
An atmosphere of celebration saw around 200 people attend the official opening event, with dignitaries and guests including the Mayor Cr Bob Newton, Deputy Mayor Mohya Davies, South Gippsland Shire councillors and senior members of staff, along with Melina Bath MLC – Member for Eastern Victoria, Danny O’Brien MP – Member for Gippsland South, representatives of Destination Gippsland, and Neville Pulham – chair of the Great Southern Rail Trail (GSRT) Committee of Management.
Harriet Shing MP, Member for Eastern Victoria, declared the refurbished section officially open, describing GSRT chair Neville Pulham as a Trojan, a superstar and a champion for the cause, and acknowledging the tireless work done by so many – showing what community endeavour, with financial support of local and state government, can achieve.
Ms Shing also commented on the fantastic response to the completion of the section from the community and visitors to the area, who attended the launch in large numbers – members of cycling and horse riding clubs, walking clubs, local residents, dogs, a mule, and even a rider on a penny farthing bicycle!
Cr Newton congratulated all involved in the project, funded by the State Government through its Putting Locals First Program which provided a total grant of $1m towards the GSRT Black Spur Stages One and Two project. The balance was made available thanks to $562,144 from the South Gippsland Shire Council and $290,000 from the Advancing Country Towns Project.
The total project cost was approximately $1.8m with $1.4m being expended towards the Black Spur section of the trail. The remaining funds will be for other developments of the GSRT, including associated infrastructure, information bay, additional trail works, and marketing which is due to be completed by the end of June.
Stages One and Two included the demolition and reconstruction of a 50 metre bridge spanning Black Spur Creek, partial demolition and reconstruction of the 152 metre bridge, the construction of a 130 metre trail connecting these two bridges, and the reconstruction of the 146 metre bridge number three, which spans the Tarwin River. An 800 metre trail was then created to complete the linkage.
Also constructed as part of the project was a picnic area and viewing location at the end of bridge number two.
Mr Pulham, obviously delighted by the completion of the Black Spur section, acknowledged the work done by the shire – in particular the funding and engineering departments, in conjunction with the GSRT Committee of Management. He also expressed gratitude to local contractors Agtrans who carried out the works.
“This is a marvellous thing,” said Mr Pulham, adding that it would be remiss of him not to mention Eric Cumming, whom he described as a tireless worker who liaised between the shire and the government departments, crossing the ‘t’s’ and dotting the ‘i’s’ along the way.
In closing, Ms Shing invited attendees to try out the Black Spur section of the Great Southern Rail Trail for themselves, and it was with much excitement – whether on two legs, four legs or two wheels – that the first to experience the newly opened section took off!