Excitement and expectations are high in the Rushworth community as a funding announcement is made to expand the existing Murchison Rushworth Rail Trail through their town.
With the opportunity to award Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Grants from the Federal Government, the Campaspe Shire Council recently unanimously approved to fund the extension of the Murchison to Rushworth Rail Trail by matching the grant from $1.5 million provided by the federal government.
Nicholls MP Damian Drum said many benefits – during and after construction – would flow directly from the project.
“New jobs will be created during construction and once complete, the hospitality industry and other local businesses can expect to benefit from the growing trend of rail trail vacations,” said Mr Drum.
The community of Rushworth had previously saved much of its old railroad infrastructure in the town’s urban area and was looking to supplement this by linking the existing Murchison Rushworth rail trail connected to the town to boost the local economy.
The Greater Shepparton City Council and state government had previously funded the initial construction project for this rail trail, which saw a section of trail between Murchison and Channel Inlet Rd officially open on February 27, 2015.
Yet there was much more potential to extend this short section of railway farther west.
“We are very excited about the project and look forward to the community consultation process,” said Kerrie Raglus, Rushworth resident and rail trails advocate.
“With full funding for the project confirmed, it is understood that planning work is underway by the council and that they will be visiting the community to get input before agreeing to the final trail.
“This combined funding from the federal government and the county council is a fabulous result.
“For the community of Rushworth who have waited over 20 years for this dream to come true, this success is credited to the pioneers who had the initial dream.”
The current target date for completion of the project is expected to be mid-2023, and with a previously published Campaspe Shire plan to link Murchison and Rushworth to the O’Keefe Rail Trail at Heathcote, it is hoped Greater Bendigo Town Council will be again jointly support this proposed link track based on the latest funding announcement.
“The linking of two rail trails has tremendous potential to be gained from creating an attractive network of connected trails,” said Garry Long, of the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail community group.
“Based on other rail trail experiences, these trails provide additional economic support to businesses in small towns like in this case Rushworth, Murchison, Heathcote and Axedale.
“It would be great to see the completed Murchison Rushworth Rail Trail linked to Heathcote and Bendigo, so trail visitors can experience natural forest environments like Whroo Nature Reserve, as well as some of the vineyards along the along the way, stop at a brewery and stay a night or two there.”
The Girgarre Stanhope Rail Trail (part of the same old Murchison Rushworth branch line) is also extended to connect these two communities by trail.